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China building massive power farm near US Air Force base in Texas

Aircraft take flight from Laughlin Air Force Base. (Laughlin Air Force Base photo/Released)
May 06, 2021

A Chinese firm is building a massive wind farm near Laughlin Air Force base in southwest Texas, and both state and federal lawmakers are advancing legislation to stop it.

The wind farm project, known as the Blue Hills Wind development, is being managed by GH America Energy, the U.S. subsidiary of the Chinese Guanghui Energy Company according to a 2020 report by Foreign Policy. The project entails the purchase of around 140,000 acres of land located about 70 miles from Laughlin Air Force Base. Guanghui Energy is owned by Sun Guangxin, a Chinese billionaire who reportedly has ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The Blue Hills wind farm has raised concerns of efforts to spy on or otherwise interfere in U.S. flight training. The wind power project has also raised concerns the power supply to the Air Force base could be vulnerable to hostile actors.

Local officials reviewing the wind farm project wrote a letter to then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, expressing concerns the project could pose challenges to the base’s regular flight training operations.

“Our greatest concern is the long-term implications this will have on the Air Force’s mission of pilot training not with a single application, but rather a cumulative strategy that cannot be evaluated in the first filing,” Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. and Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano wrote in a letter obtained by Foreign Policy. “We believe that this project and all future projects of a similar nature will result in unacceptable risk to national security of the United States.”

Despite the concerns raised about the wind farm project, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) — a panel of different federal agencies that looks at the national security risks posed by foreign investments in the U.S. — approved the project. CFIUS said that while GH America Energy must prevent the wind turbines from interfering with low-level flight training routes at Laughlin Air Force Base, the project can proceed.

While CFIUS has given the green light for the wind farm, lawmakers in the Texas state legislature are rapidly advancing legislation to stop the project.

Texas Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) introduced SB. 2116 this year, which states, Texas government offices cannot approve contracts relating to critical infrastructure with a company that is either owned outright or by a majority ownership interest in by Chinese, Russian, North Korean and Iranian individuals, companies and government agencies or by any entities headquartered in those countries.

“A Chinese billionaire who has high-ranking connections with the Chinese Communist Party purchased nearly 150,000 acres of land in a sparsely populated area of Texas,” Campbell said of the legislation in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon. “We can’t allow hostile nations to get a foothold in our critical infrastructure.”

Texas Public Policy Foundation expert Jason Isaac also told the Washington Free Beacon, “It’s extremely frightening that we have foreign companies that we want to connect to our grid.”

Isaac added, “It’s not only the espionage impact of having a Chinese-controlled company close to the base, but also the ability that they could have the base without power for an exceedingly long period of time.”

Campbell’s legislation has already passed in the state Senate by a vote of 31-0. The bill now goes to the Texas House.

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), a lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives, has also sponsored legislation along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to halt the Blue Hills wind farm and any Chinese, Russian, Iranian, or North Korean real estate purchases on U.S. land within 100 miles of a U.S. military installation or 50 miles of military operations areas. The legislation was introduced in the House in April but has not yet gone to a vote.

“GH America Energy, a subsidiary of China’s Guanghei Energy, should never have been allowed to purchase land so close to Laughlin Air Force Base,” Gonzales said in an April press statement.

Cruz said, “I am proud to introduce this commonsense bill to defend our national security interests and ensure regimes that threaten the United States – such as the Chinese Communist Party – don’t have the ability to purchase land in order to intercept and disrupt military activities.”