A storm is brewing over a series of planned wind farms in Oregon after U.S. President Barack Obama banned the project’s Chinese backers from developing the sites near sensitive military facilities, citing risks to national security.
Obama issued an executive order on Friday compelling Ralls Corp, a Delaware-incorporated company owned by executives from the China-based construction equipment company Sany Group, to divest all of its interests in the planned wind farms near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in Boardman, Oregon.
There is “credible evidence” that the Sany Group and Ralls “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Obama said in the order.
The Naval training facility is used to test electronic combat training, conduct bombing and missile exercises, and develop and test drone technology, according to federal environmental records.
The four planned wind farms are within a five-mile (8-kilometer) radius of the airspace used by the nearby U.S. Navy facility.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews foreign investment projects for possible threats to national security, had blocked development of the project this summer pending its investigation and delivery of its recommendations to Obama.
The order, which marked the first time in more than two decades that a U.S. president has blocked such a deal involving foreign investment, comes just weeks before the November 6 presidential election. Obama has faced criticism from Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney that the president has been soft in dealing with China.
"The block was probably serving Obama's campaign for another term, or serving the purpose of protecting the U.S. wind power industry," Zhou Qing, legal affairs chief of Sany Group’s international development planning department, told Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Zhou told Xinhua that the company would pursue legal avenues to obtain “a fair and square result.”
U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman Natalie Wyeth Earnest, however, said pursuing litigation could be an exercise in futility for the Chinese company.
“They could try to pursue a lawsuit,” Earnest said. “But the CFIUS statute clearly states that the President’s actions are not subject to judicial review.”