Springfield Journal Register

September 8, 2006

Obama, Durbin obstruct nominee

Demand release of Pentagon's wind farm study

WASHINGTON - Sens. Dick Durbin and Barack Obama are blocking Senate confirmation of a Defense Department nominee in an attempt to pressure the Pentagon into releasing a study that is holding up wind turbine construction in Illinois and other states.

In July, the two Illinois Democrats temporarily blocked the appointment of a top aviation official. But they released their hold on the nominee eight days later, when Federal Aviation Administration officials assured them they were expediting their reviews of whether large wind turbines, used to produce electricity, interfered with military radar.

Earlier this year, the FAA told Durbin it had issued stop-work orders for at least 12 proposed wind projects in the Midwest while the Defense Department review is pending.

While one McLean County wind farm has since been allowed to move forward, the uncertainty caused by the study is bad for potential investors and future projects, a Durbin aide said.

In their latest attempt to resolve the dispute, the senators have blocked a Senate vote on the nomination of Robert L. Wilkie as assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the Pentagon. He currently is acting assistant secretary.

"Each day this report remains delin-quent, these wind energy projects lose opportunities for new investment and may not be able to meet deadlines for completion," the senators wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld released Thursday.

They asked that the report be released immediately and, if problems are found, that the report suggest ways to resolve them.

A Defense Department spokeswoman said the study is progressing.

"We will continue to work to complete the report as soon as possible. However, we must ensure it is accurate and complete," said Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez. "We have provided several status updates on the progress of the assessment to Congress. Until the report is submitted to Congress, it would be premature to talk about specifics."

Congress required the department study under an amendment by Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., to the fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill. The report was due in May.