A wind turbine permit bill that allows those advocating for clear flight paths for the military to be heard in the permitting process was overwhelmingly passed by the N.C. House last week.
Introduced March 28 by Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, HB 484, passed 112-2 in the final House vote and is currently in the N.C. Senate.
The bill sets a $3,500 fee for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources permit and requires wind energy developers to confront military encroachment issues at the beginning of the process.
James Norment, a lawyer for the Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow lobby group, said much work went in to getting the bill passed.
“I believe that informed decisions will help most developers avoid an investment in a project that is an encroachment problem,” he said.
ACT consultant Mark Finlayson said Rep. Paul Tine, D-Dare, who represents an area of Beaufort County that is the site of a proposed wind farm, must have been convinced of the validity of the bill, which had several revisions because it went to the House floor without opposition.
“Rep. Bell did a fantastic job of learning the issue and being in command of the facts,” he said. “He did an outstanding job in committee and, as the primary bill sponsor, he was the floor captain.”
Commanders at bases like Cherry Point and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro cannot approve or oppose any wind turbine project under orders from the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
However, the bill would require that they be notified of any wind turbine projects in flight paths or training areas, and that public hearings be held.
“It doesn’t preclude wind farms, it simply allows the state to take into account the needs and concerns of military training,” Finlayson said.
The military, and particularly aviation and the civilian workforce connected to it, account for more than 38 percent of the Craven County economy.
The bill now moves to the Senate, and local officials fill confident it will pass.
“I am confident that Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) and Sen. Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico) can make the same compelling case for it in the senate that Rep. Bell did in the House,” Finlayson said.