Chinese-owned firm sues Obama over blocked wind farms

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Chinese-owned company is suing President Obama over his decision to block construction of four small wind farms in Oregon.

Ralls Corp., which is incorporated in the United States but owned by executives of Chinese heavy industrial firm Sany Group, filed the lawsuit yesterday, according to a copy of the suit released this afternoon. The company amended an earlier complaint against the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and its chairman, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

CFIUS in August stymied Ralls’ efforts to develop the projects as a means to demonstrate Sany turbines to attract more U.S. buyers, and Obama last week formally backed that decision, citing potential threats to national security (E&ENews PM, Sept. 28).

Existing law authorized CFIUS to review transactions that could result in foreign nationals controlling American firms and authorizes the president to prohibit or suspend transactions that could harm national security.

In its lawsuit, Ralls argues that Obama exceeded his authority by ordering the company to remove equipment that already had been installed at the wind farm sites and by prohibiting Ralls from selling any Sany-made products to a new buyer for the projects.

The four wind farms, which would have led to the installation of 20 new turbines, were within or near restricted airspace used by the Navy. But Ralls notes in its lawsuit that dozens of other turbines already exist in the area, including some made by foreign companies or at wind farms owned and operated by foreign developers. The lawsuit also says that neither Obama nor CFIUS have specified how Ralls’ project would endanger national security.

Ralls likely faces long odds with the lawsuit because of the high level of deference courts generally grant to presidents on issues involving national security, legal experts have said.