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Steinburg: Wind bill good for region

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Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, said legislation in the N.C. House would streamline wind energy development in North Carolina.

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By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

The Perquimans Weekly

Friday, April 21, 2017

HERTFORD — State Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, believes that a bill designed to streamline construction of new wind power projects will get a vote in the House this month.

Unlike some Senate legislation designed to curb or stop new wind development because of fears they would harm the military, Steinburg said HB 574 deals with any potential conflicts with the military wind energy projects might have from the start.

“It’s a good bill,” Steinburg said Thursday.

The legislation was filed on April 5 and passed its first reading the following day. It was referred to the Committee on Energy and Public Utilities on Wednesday and now sits in the committee dealing with rules, calendar and operations.

“That can be a bad thing,” Steinburg said, referring to other bills that have been sent to that committee to die. “But I don’t think so in this case. I think it’s going to be heard.”

In order to stay alive a bill must pass either the Senate or House by Thursday.

Steinburg and state Rep. Howard Hunter, D-Hertford, were among the 18 co-sponsors of HB 574.

The primary sponsors of the bill are Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland, a three-term representative and retired Army lieutenant colonel; two-term Rep. Sam Watford, R-Davidson, who works in the construction industry and two-term Rep. Holly Grange, R-New Hanover. Grange is director of community affairs for Osprey Global Solutions, a company that provides security, medical training, armament services, and construction services.

HB 574 puts the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in the key role of reviewing wind power projects.

“This bill amplifies the relationship with the military by having a consistent policy rather than a willy-nilly one,” Steinburg said.

Some lawmakers have argued that the Amazon Wind Farms East project will harm the U.S. Navy’s ROTHR radar facility in Chesapeake. Both the military and Steinburg have said it won’t.

“By going to the ROTHR facility and talking to the military people and hearing what they had to say, it was clear what people were saying wasn’t accurate,” Steinburg said.”They said, ‘we don’t have any problems with working with (wind energy) developers.’”

Steinburg said the military has already embraced the “all of the above” energy policy because they see value in it.

Steinburg says wind energy can also have benefit for local taxpayers. In the case of Amazon, it is expected to produce about $500,000 a year in property tax revenue — split roughly in half — for Perquimans and Pasquotank counties.

“This is money they can use for our schools, or infrastructure,” he said. “This is money Perquimans does not have or may not ever have and it will help make life overall for all of county residents better.”

Perquimans Board of Commissioners Chairman Kyle Jones said the board can’t control what the General Assembly does, but he said his board would continue to work for what’s best for local citizens. Perquimans commissioners approved a conditional use permit for the Amazon project but turned down a similar permit for a wind energy project proposed for the Perquimans-Chowan county border by Apex Clean Energy.

"Our board of commissioners can only address what comes before us, and those issues that we have jurisdiction over,” Jones said. “Whatever the state Legislature decides to do, we may have members of our board who agree or disagree with those things, I know that our board will continue to do what we can for the benefit of the citizens of Perquimans County."

Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, who has opposed wind projects in the past, could not be reached for comment.

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