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New law protects military air space without deterring wind power

By Daisy Creager

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – An amendment to the Oklahoma Wind Energy Development Act signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt Thursday settles concerns about wind power development and military training space, officials said.

House Bill 2118, authored by state Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus, requires wind farm operators to obtain documentation from the Department of Defense showing objections to turbines have been addressed prior to construction and increases communication between the military, regulators and the industry.

Advanced Power Alliance Vice President Mark Yates said the bill came about three years ago when various military bases in the state expressed concern about the possibility of turbines interfering with training, prompting an interim study.

Concerns were addressed in 2018 when Gov. Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 1576, requiring wind developers to obtain a determination of no hazard from the Federal Aviation Administration or a mitigation plan from the DOD prior to construction.

Yates said Ortega and others thought additional provisions were needed, prompting HB 2118, which APA, Ortega and the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission “worked hand in hand” to create.

“It’s a good Oklahoma solution that achieves balance,” Yates said. “First and foremost I think it protects our military bases and low level training routes, yet still provides a pathway for further wind industry development across the state.”

NextEra Energy Resources faced issues in 2018 during construction of a wind farm west of Hinton when the OSMPC claimed it did not have proper clearance from the FAA and DOD.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced Oct. 2 an agreement between NextEra and the OSMPC that construction would halt while the DOD created a mitigation plan.

The Oct. 15 deadline for the mitigation plan was extended nine times, eventually landing on Jan. 31, and NextEra was allowed to proceed with construction on approved turbines.

NextEra did not respond to requests for comment on the process.

OSMPC Chairman Mike Cooper said in a press release the bill addresses a problem facing many states.

“HB 2118 protects our state’s number one asset, which is available airspace,” Cooper said. “It helps us protect military’s mission capabilities and is considered to be landmark legislation by the Department of Defense.”

Ortega said in the release protecting Oklahoma’s airspace is vital to keeping military training in the state, as well as allowing the wind industry opportunities to grow.

“If we don’t protect our airspace, we run the risk of that training moving elsewhere, but it’s also important to ensure we develop legislation that allows ample opportunity for wind energy companies to move into our state,” Ortega said.

 

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