The Sierra Club recently filed suit against the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) for creating a virtual moratorium on the construction of new wind power plants. DOD has failed to complete a congressionally mandated study of windmills' impact on radar. In the meantime, DOD, Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration have halted wind farm construction ‘within radar line of sight’ of any military radar — which has effectively stopped construction across the U.S., the Sierra Club says.
‘While the Defense Department drags its feet studying if wind farms are a threat to national security, Americans are missing out on cleaner, cheaper energy,’ says Kristin Henry, staff attorney for Sierra Club. ‘If the military can have windmills and effective radar at Guantanamo, why can't we have both in the Midwest?’
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims that the DOD has violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 contained a last-minute amendment, inserted by Senator John Warner of Virginia, requiring Donald Rumsfeld and DOD to complete a study on the effect of windmills on military readiness and the operation of military radar installations by May 8, 2006.
In order to operate and construct a wind farm in the U.S., an energy developer must obtain a notice from the FAA stating that the installation is not a hazard to air navigation. The FAA is interpreting DOD's ‘Interim Windmill Policy’ to mean that it cannot approve any wind projects ‘within radar line of sight.’ Instead, the agency has been issuing ‘Notices of Presumptive Hazard,’ which decline to provide the required notice until more information is obtained regarding possible interference with military radar installations.
‘Paralyzing wind energy development could not have come at a worse time,’ says David Bookbinder, senior attorney for the Sierra Club. ‘The Department of Defense has provided no indication of when it intends to complete the required study, even though the deadline has already passed. Meanwhile the window for claiming tax credits on wind projects is closing next year.’
In June, several Midwestern senators wrote a letter to the DOD and the FAA requesting that they stop unnecessarily obstructing the construction of clean, renewable energy sources.
Wind proponents are concerned if the moratorium persists through the summer, an entire construction season will be lost and project developers would be in danger of losing federal tax credits that are due to expire at the end of 2007.