The Department of Defense Clearinghouse process protects military readiness, strengthens local economies
By Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.)
As a veteran with nearly 30 years of service in the Air Force and as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have an important responsibility to ensure the readiness of our Armed Forces at home and abroad. That is why I strive to ensure that the men and women serving our country have the tools they need to safely, and effectively, carry out their orders.
We live in critical times. Currently, our military is globally engaged, frequently deployed, and doing more with less. Our Armed Forces must be ready to deploy at a moment's notice without any interference. One way the Department of Defense (DOD) is meeting this challenge is by the establishment of the Siting Clearinghouse, which evaluates any large-scale energy project proposed near military installations. This includes wind farms or similar tall energy infrastructure projects that may affect the DOD's mission.
Every military base is unique with different capabilities, characteristics, and missions. The only way to accurately assess the potential impact of wind farms or similar large-scale projects is through detailed, scientific, site-specific analysis. The DOD is the only entity capable of fully understanding the impact that these wind structures may have on mission readiness. When evaluating proposed projects, their standard is clear: no project may inhibit base operations or mission readiness.
As required by law, DOD evaluates proposed wind projects based on the rights of private citizens living near military bases, the training routes affected by the structures, and the operations performed at the specific base nearby. If the DOD finds that a wind project has any potential complications that cannot be remedied, the project will not go forward. This is considered the Clearinghouse process, and history has proven that it works-currently, there are more than 59,000 wind turbines spread out across the United States.
This matters because wind energy is a powerful job creator that brings economic development to rural areas in need of new opportunities. The Clearinghouse process lets communities harness the benefits of wind production without impacting the mission of our Armed Forces.
Nebraska is home to Offutt Air Force Base, which headquarters U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and houses the largest wing in Air Combat Command. Its presence has not stopped wind energy projects from creating opportunities in our state. In Nebraska, farmers and ranchers are paid more than $5 million every year in lease payments for hosting wind turbines on their property. Wind projects also pay Nebraska $8.5 million in state and local taxes every year, which generates investments in local entities and schools.
The benefits of wind energy production in Nebraska are boosting our county budgets and providing new, well-paying jobs in communities across the state. Currently, more than 3,000 Nebraskans have direct jobs in wind. Additionally, companies are starting to realize the impact that wind has on our state. For example, Facebook recently completed a data center right in my district that will bring more than 200 new jobs to the area. One reason Facebook selected the city of Papillion for this investment is because the facility could power its data centers using 100 percent wind energy.
Over the last two years, I have worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that our military is equipped to respond to any global event. The DOD Clearinghouse process strengthens our local economies and bolsters our domestic renewable energy development without hampering the readiness of our military. As such, I am confident that the Clearinghouse process protects our military readiness and preserves our national security.
Don Bacon represents Nebraska's 2nd District and is a member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. (www.bacon.house.gov)