Rep. Bob Steinburg (R-Chowan) represents the district that includes the Amazon wind project & has been a strong supporter of clean energy and the resulting economic benefits in his area. In less than 24 hours of the first media stories about the anti-wind letter, Rep. Steinburg, local elected officials and economic developers, and Avangrid staff were engaged vigorously by the Key States comms team to counter the letter.
EF Policy Consultants & NCSEA Lobbyists also engaged immediately in direct talks with Speaker Moore and Rep. Bell and other legislative allies (non-signers, ex Steinburg, McGrady, Szoka) to determine how this letter happened and potential next steps.
It was a very strong comms response led by G&S Business Communications and Julie Robinson in consultation with Rep. Steinburg, Avangrid, Southeastern Wind Coalition, Jennifer Behr/Chambers for Innovation & Clean Energy, and NCSEA. A few highlights:
Legislators Seek to Shut Down Wind Farm
First story: Coastal Review Online (posted online the evening of 01/12/17)
One coastal legislator not on the list of signatories was Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, whose district includes the wind farm project. Steinburg told CRO Wednesday that he would fight any move to shut down the wind farm unless he saw any solid evidence that claims in the letter were true.
Steinburg said he had raised his objections with House leaders over the letter. The push to shut down the wind farm, he said, is less about the military and more about a long-running fight against renewables in the General Assembly.
“I think there are some who are trying to set up the military as a straw man,” Steinburg said. “I have not talked with anyone from the military that has said they cannot coexist with this particular project.” Steinburg said the wind farm went through years of review at the state, federal and local levels.
Officials Slam Cook for Wind Project Shut Down Effort
Second Story: Elizabeth City Daily Advance, 1/14/17 (Sat paper)
Pasquotank County officials said Friday they will oppose state lawmakers' efforts to shut down Amazon Wind Farm US East. Several of them also accused state Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, of acting against his district's interests by joining those efforts. One said Cook is “no longer my senator,” while another said the senator owes the region an apology for being part of the effort to shut down the wind project.
Pasquotank Board of Commissioners Chairman Cecil Perry said Friday that the wind energy project should proceed. He said he believes federal agencies “did their homework” on the project and that the wind farm would not be harmful to anyone. To the contrary, he said the project has had major economic benefits.
Elizabeth City Mayor Joe Peel also said he was opposed to shutting down the wind farm, adding that he doesn’t believe military concerns are driving the lawmakers' letter. He said he believes the city should respond to the letter.
Peel also said he feels Cook isn’t serving the district's best interests in opposing the project.
Wayne Harris, director of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission, said he also opposes the lawmakers’ effort. He disagreed the project would harm the Navy’s radar operations in Chesapeake. “I just think that's completely bogus,” he said.
Harris said the Navy and Avangrid had “intense negotiations” on whether the project could go forward, and they agreed the project could go forward in a modified, scaled-back form. Avangrid agreed to build 104 turbines instead of 150, he noted. He also said he was “stunned” that lawmakers would try to shut down the project, rendering a $400 million capital investment “worthless.”
Economic Boards Oppose Wind Farm Shutdown
Follow-Up Story: Daily Advance, Jan 19, 2017
Two economic development boards in Elizabeth City have adopted resolutions supporting the Amazon Wind Farm US East and opposing state legislative efforts to have the incoming Donald Trump administration shut down the nearly operational 104-turbine facility. The board of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Economic Development Commission adopted its resolution on Wednesday and the Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. board adopted its resolution on Thursday.
During Thursday’s ECDI meeting, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Economic Development Commission Director Wayne Harris called the letter from the 10 legislators asking the Trump Administration to halt a completed project “unprecedented.” He urged board members to send a message that the local community doesn’t share the view expressed in the lawmakers’ letter. “I think it’s important for the community — every possible organization in the community — to let everyone know — not just the 10 legislators, but the governor and the congressional delegation, our two senators know — that this is an unprecedented attack on the community and on a private company’s capital investment — and that we’re opposed to it,” Harris said.
At the EDC meeting on Wednesday, Harris said the wind farm in fact has had a positive effect on his efforts to recruit business to Pasquotank’s Commerce Park, which is located near the interchange of U.S. Highway 17 Bypass and U.S. Highways 17 and 158. “We’ve had developers look at us because we have a wind farm,” he said. “Their developments have absolutely nothing to do with the wind farm, but they sort of came across (the fact there is a wind farm here) on the EC-PC EDC website.”