Pasquotank frustrated with Cook on wind farm


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pasquotank County commissioners expressed frustration with state Sen. Bill Cook this week, criticizing both his efforts to shut down the Amazon Wind Farm US East and his absence from lawmakers' tour of the facility last month.

During commissioners’ meeting Monday, the board passed a resolution of support for the wind farm, joining Elizabeth City City Council and two local economic development agencies who had already passed similar resolutions. The resolution protests a letter that Cook, R-Beaufort, and nine other lawmakers signed calling for President Donald Trump's administration to shut down the facility over concerns its turbines will impede national security by interfering with U.S. Navy radar operations at the Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Virginia.

At Commissioner Lloyd Griffin's request, commissioners tweaked the resolution's wording to cite provisions of an agreement between the wind farm developer, Navy and Department of Defense that spell out how the parties would try to mitigate any radar impacts.

Notably, commissioners kept the resolution's wording describing the letter as an attempt to “usurp the rule of law” that City Council considered too confrontational and removed in its resolution.

Commissioners also agreed to write a letter to Cook objecting to shutting down the project, and the senator’s attempt to do so without discussing the matter with them.

“I think a letter needs to go to him letting him know we are not satisfied with his actions,” Pasquotank board Chairman Cecil Perry said.

Commissioner Jeff Dixon said he was “darn disappointed” in Cook and criticized him for not attending a legislative tour of the wind farm last month. House Speaker Tim Moore, one of the letter's signatories, joined the tour and now appears to be softening his opposition to the wind farm.

“Where is his group? He can't even get a group together to come and see for himself what it's about? No, he'd rather sign an empty letter,” Dixon said, referring to Cook.

Griffin suggested Cook could have at least sent his legislative assistant, Jordan Hennessy, to tour the wind farm.

Commissioner Joe Winslow disagreed, saying he was “furious” about the lawmakers’ letter.

“Bill Cook should've been there,” Winslow said. “He is the one we look to for direction and help and I'm furious I didn't know anything about this until the Friday morning following” its release.

Commissioner Frankie Meads, the board's only Republican, said he had been aware of the letter Cook signed. In fact, he had noted its existence at a commissioners' meeting earlier in January.

Winslow reiterated that other commissioners weren't told about the letter, nor was the county's lobbyist in Raleigh or even state Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, told about the shutdown effort. Cook owed the county the “courtesy” of a warning the letter was being sent, Winslow said.

Though describing Cook as the “low man on the totem pole” in the wind farm shutdown effort — besides Moore, the signatories included House Majority Leader John Bell and Senate President Phil Berger — Meads said he did not object to commissioners sending the letter.

Commissioner Bill Sterritt cautioned commissioners against criticizing Cook too harshly and risk hardening his position on the wind farm.

“What we don't want to do is send a letter that he's going to use as a dartboard,” Sterritt said. “We don't want to destroy any movement forward on a change in attitude about this.”

Commissioners also agreed to send a thank-you letter to Steinburg, who worked to get Moore to visit the site and has defended the project.

In an email, Hennessy wrote that Cook couldn’t attend the wind farm tour in Pasquotank because he had previously committed to a meeting with “folks from the Town of Bath discussing several issues.”