Pentagon wind farm block raises question

Pentagon wind farm block raises question

0610_ATS02GILLIAM COUNTY When the Pentagon blocked construction of the $2 billion Shepherd’s Flat Wind Farm because turbines could scramble aircraft radar at a facility in Fossil, Oregon’s congressional delegation went to bat for the state’s economy.

Senator Ron Wyden met in person with Defense Secretary Robert Gates to emphasize the economic significance of the 400 sorely needed jobs Shepherd’s Flat would provide. Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley blocked the nominations of three Department of Defense positions until the moratorium was lifted on April 30. The Pentagon also agreed to upgrade its 40-year-old radar technology in Fossil, although that doesn’t guarantee similar concerns won’t surface in the future.

Many wonder why the Department of Defense saved its objection for the 11th hour. Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense, says national security issues are typically raised at the end of the process.

But people who were involved in the process and asked for anonymity for fear of endangering future projects question whether the Pentgon intentionally raised its objections late in the process, to bargain for funding to upgrade the Fossil facility. Defense has approved similar wind farms in the vicinity of the Fossil facility, but those projects had less economic significance. Did the Pentagon use its power over Shepherd’s Flat as a strategic bargaining chip?

Robyn denies political games were played. Critics argue otherwise.

“The solution was absolutely political,” says Paul Woodin, the Community Renewable Energy Association’s executive director.