WASHINGTON - Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and
Barack Obama are blocking one of President
Bush's nominees until they get a ruling from the
administration that could clear the way for
electricity-generating wind farms in the state.
The two Democratic senators put a hold
Tuesday on the nomination of Andrew Steinberg to
be assistant secretary for aviation and
international affairs at the U.S. Department of
Transportation to pressure the administration to
make a decision on whether wind farms would
interfere with military radar systems.
Steinberg is not part of the windmill issue
but is being targeted to exert pressure on the
administration. Any senator can put a hold on a
nomination, effectively stopping it from going
An administration spokeswoman called the move
unfortunate, while pledging to encourage the
Senate to act on the nomination.
At least one wind farm project in Illinois,
in Bloomington, is in jeopardy because the
federal government could decide the project is
too close to a radar tower to receive a
go-ahead, Durbin spokeswoman Sandra Abrevaya
Under direction from Congress, the Defense
Department has been studying whether wind farms
would interfere with radar. Durbin and Obama
said the study is taking too long, and the delay
has halted work on a dozen projects in the
Midwest and others across the nation.
"The administration's promised response on
windmill construction is long overdue," Durbin
said in a statement Tuesday. "It is time for a
Obama said "wind farms are an important part
of our ongoing efforts to make the United States
more energy independent, which is why the FAA
needs to immediately clarify its position so
that investors feel comfortable putting their
money into these projects and construction crews
can get to work."
Abrevaya said the Federal Aviation
Administration initially ordered a halt to
construction at the Bloomington project, but
then began a review of sites on a case-by-case
basis and allowed construction to continue
But she said the lack of certainty about a
final decision puts the project at risk. It has
been described as potentially the largest source
of wind energy in the nation.
White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore
criticized their efforts.
"We think it's unfortunate that Sens. Obama
and Durbin have decided to hold up the
appointment of someone who is going to help
further the FAA's important agenda while also
attempting to push a critical report that seeks
to reconcile two national priorities," she said.
Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John
Warner, R-Va., required the Defense Department
study in an amendment to a 2006 defense bill.
Under an interim policy issued in March, the
Defense and Homeland Security departments are
contesting wind farms within 60 miles of radar