So. Md. Delegation Pushes Bill to Stall Wind Power - Southern Maryland Headline News

So. Md. Delegation Pushes Bill to Stall Wind Power

Says study is needed to determine impact on radar technologies used at NAS PAXRVR

By Lyle Kendrick

ANNAPOLIS (April 1, 2014)—A bill (HB 1168) that would delay a planned wind farm in Somerset County drew opposition from environmental groups Tuesday in the Senate Finance Committee despite support from Democratic lawmakers. The bill, entitled "Electricity - Certificate - Wind Turbines - Limitation," is sponsored by the Southern Maryland Delegation.

The bill, which cleared the House of Delegates, would prohibit the public service commission from allowing wind turbines for more than a year within 56 miles of the Patuxent River Naval Base.

The measure is designed to allow for a study that would determine whether it’s possible to mitigate spinning turbines’ potential impact on the radar technology used by the base.

U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-5th, testified that he supports the bill and said this kind of study could help lay the groundwork for future wind projects near radar facilities.

“It’s not an either-or situation,” he said.

The bill would set back plans for the Great Bay wind project, which costs $200 million and aims to put at least 25 turbines that are up to 600 feet tall in Somerset County.

“This kills the project,” said Adam Cohen, vice president of Pioneer Green, the company running the project.

Opponents of the bill said the radar could only be disrupted by moving turbines and the developer has an arrangement with the Navy to stop wind operations based on the Navy’s needs.

But Hoyer said that while he supports wind energy, a curtailment agreement shows that turbines and the radar system do not work well together.

“This is not a mom and pop type turbine,” said Delegate John Bohanan, D-St. Mary’s County, who supports the bill.

Hoyer and other supporters of the bill said they are concerned that if turbines interrupted the radar system’s ability to function properly, the base could be moved as a part of military consolidation.

“We cannot take lightly this [Base Realignment and Closure] threat,” said Sen. Roy Dyson, D-St. Mary’s.

But the bill’s opponents said they think the project would not interfere with the base and would bring many green jobs to one of Maryland’s poorest counties.

Abby Hopper, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, said if the bill goes forward as written, it would send a negative message to the country about Maryland’s business climate.

Before the hearing in the Senate Finance Committee, protesters met in front of the State House to voice opposition to the bill.

Maryland farmers drove two tractors with turbines on them through Annapolis as a part of their protest.

Mary Anne Peterman lives on a farm in Somerset County and keeps up a house that was built in the 1840s. She hopes the wind project could alleviate some of her financial problems.

“An upkeep on a place like that on a farm is a lot, so the revenue from this would really help our future generations,” she said.

Hoyer Testimony on H.B. 1168

ANNAPOLIS - Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5) testified today before the Maryland Senate Finance Committee in support of H.B. 1168. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

"Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chairman, and members of the Committee, I am pleased to be here today to offer my support for H.B. 1168.

"First, I would like to call the Committee's attention to a letter submitted for the record from Senators Mikulski and Cardin, as well as myself, in support of the legislation. We recognize the need to further study this issue so as to not diminish the capabilities at Pax River.

"As many of you know, my Congressional District includes the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, which is not only a vital national security military installation but serves as an important economic engine for Southern Maryland. Today, Pax employs 22,000 people and contributes approximately70-80% of the local economy in St. Mary's County. The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development estimates that Pax contributes $7.5 billion annually to the Maryland economy. Throughout the BRAC rounds of the 1990's and in 2005, I fought hard to preserve 9,000 jobs at Pax and add another 5,000.

"For several years, I have followed the proposed wind energy project in Somerset County and have been seeking to ensure that it does not have negative impacts on the Advanced Dynamic Aircraft Measurement System (ADAMS) Range, a part of the Atlantic Test Range. While I am committed to developing sources of alternative energy, including wind, I want to ensure that the location of such projects does not diminish the testing capability and research value of the ADAMS Range.

"The ADAMS Range is a classified unique national asset. The Navy has invested considerably in developing this radar capability. As the growth in stealth technology becomes more critical, the workload of the ADAMS Range will only continue to grow. Much of the testing done at the Atlantic Test Range feeds into other research and testing at Pax River.

"In 2011, due to concern about potential impacts of wind power located in proximity to military installations, I worked to include a provision in that year's Defense Authorization bill (Section 358) to ensure that such projects, if they proceeded, would be developed 'while minimizing or mitigating any adverse impacts on military operations.'

"I believe that the bill before your committee today, H.B. 1168, is needed to strengthen Maryland's law, and, further, that the proposed curtailment agreement, which has received a good deal of attention in the press, does not eliminate the need for this bill. To be clear, as of today, there is no final signed curtailment agreement between the Navy and the developer, Pioneer Green. The Navy has issued the following statement to my office on Friday, March 28th on the matter: 'Based on both Department of the Navy and Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Lincoln Laboratories studies, it was determined that wind turbines within the line of site of the Advanced Dynamic Aircraft Measurement System (ADAMS) will have an adverse effect on critical flight tests. For the past year, the Navy has worked closely with Pioneer Green to craft a curtailment agreement that would provide for the suspension of turbine operations at the Great Bay project when critical testing is being conducted on the Chesapeake Test Range at NAS Patuxent River. While representatives from Pioneer Green have stated they have an agreement with the Department of the Navy, the proposed agreement is still under review and has not been approved by the Navy.'

"I have several concerns with the proposed agreement because it does not resolve conflicts between the ADAMS range and the operation of the project.

"First, the proposed agreement includes provisions that would prohibit the Department of Defense and the Navy from objecting to the development, finance, construction and operation of the Great Bay Wind project in any federal, state, or local regulatory proceeding, including appearing before the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC). While some feel that the issues related to this project are best considered by the PSC, the curtailment agreement would preclude the Navy from raising any of its concerns.

"Second, the proposed agreement allows construction of wind turbines in Somerset County at heights up to 600 feet, heights that we know conflict with the ADAMS range testing today. A key benefit of H.B. 1168 is that it would prescribe, as a matter of state law, allowable turbine heights and the distance from the range where turbines of such height could be located.

"Third and finally, the proposed agreement sets an annual limit on the hours of testing that Pax can conduct, with an exception only for national security emergencies. I am concerned that this does not allow enough flexibility for the ADAMS Range to expand its business.

"Customers who utilize the Atlantic Test Range for classified testing have indicated that the proposed curtailment agreement is unacceptable. If customers find an alternative installation to perform their testing, they could go elsewhere, which could put many high-paying jobs and economic activity in our state at risk.

"Since the early 1990's, we have worked together to ensure that Pax River and other military installations in our state are well positioned for BRACs. We must continue to work toward that goal, which includes maintaining current capabilities and advocating for continued growth. While the Navy might be willing to move this capability from Pax River to another installation, we certainly do not want to see this asset moved elsewhere.

"The legislation that you are considering today would allow M.I.T. sufficient time to complete a $2 million study to examine whether there are technologies we can deploy that would mitigate the impacts on the ADAMS Range. This research is vital to determine whether the impacts on ADAMS Range can be mitigated so as to not negatively impact the range operations.

"It also is vital to the future of on-shore wind development in Maryland. It will enable us to clearly establish where developers can construct wind turbines without restriction or in a manner and height that does not put at risk the vital testing capabilities at Pax River. This is important for our national security, for our future competiveness, in any future BRAC, and for the economic well being of our state.

"I thank you for the opportunity to testify on H.B. 1168, and urge you to pass this important piece of legislation."

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