Hall: Wind projects OK if planned well
By Reggie Ponder
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Military readiness and wind energy facilities can coexist as long as an adequate planning process is followed in siting wind facilities, the governor’s top military adviser says.
Larry Hall, secretary of the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said during an event in Elizabeth City on Wednesday that he would like the planning process for wind energy facilities to be as comprehensive as possible.
Military officials are comfortable with wind energy facilities “as long as there are transparent, fact-based procedures in place,” Hall said.
The first utility-scale wind energy facility in the state is located in the Elizabeth City area and another has been proposed for an area between Edenton and Hertford.
More and more counties are adopting up-to-date comprehensive land use plans, and those plans need to include consultation with the Department of Defense about future plans for military facilities and how those plans might limit where wind energy facilities should be built, Hall said.
The Department of Defense has a clearinghouse that reviews all planned wind energy projects, but the additional step needed is communication between county planning officials, state agencies involved in planning, and Defense to ensure that future military facilities are taken into account when designating areas in a land use plan as possible sites for wind energy facilities, he said.
Hall said if some areas are removed from consideration for wind energy projects because of concerns about future military facilities, the military might need to compensate people for denying them the highest and best use of their land.
Hall also said that part of the “balancing act” for the military is the recognition that military facilities are large consumers of electricity.
“We've got to have power,” Hall said, so the military can't be anti-wind power or oppose any legitimate means of generating electricity.
The one constant concern is compatibility, he said.
“What you have for all renewables is, 'how do we ensure compatibility with our present and future missions and capacity?'” Hall said.
The Department of Defense does not want anything to interfere with training and readiness, he said. That means that as much information as possible needs to be shared between state and county planning officials and military officials about future plans as well as existing facilities, he said.
In North Carolina, he said, his goal is to standardize the planning process across the state so that the same kinds of information are being shared everywhere.
On another topic, Hall, who was the first North Carolina Cabinet secretary subject to the recently instituted process of confirmation by the Legislature, said he considers the confirmation process in its current form unnecessary.
“All the Cabinet secretaries are at-will – we can be terminated at any time by the governor,” Hall said.
A Cabinet secretary has no job security or protections such as would be provided under the State Personnel Act, he said. So the purpose of an interview with legislators should be informational, he said. It's fine to have an interview process so legislators can learn about the governor's appointee and find out what the appointee plans for the department, he said.
But the appointment itself should rest solely with the governor and not be contingent on Senate confirmation, Hall said.
“I think it was hastily created,” Hall said of the confirmation process.
The Republican-led General Assembly passed a law following Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper’s victory in the November election that included among its provisions a requirement that his Cabinet appointments have Senate confirmation. Although the requirement is in the state Constitution, it had never been used before. Cooper sued to block the provision’s implementation but the N.C. Supreme Court upheld it in a ruling several months ago.
Hall also said that while President Donald Trump's budget has been described as increasing defense spending, he would qualify that in two ways. First, the president's budget proposal simply restores 10 percent of funding that was cut under sequestration, he said.
And the other thing to keep in mind is that the president's priority is operations — spending more on deploying ships near North Korea as an expression of power, for instance — so the funding is not necessarily available for improvements to equipment and facilities, he said.