Texas is moving ahead with legislation aimed at keeping hostile countries out of the state’s critical infrastructure.

The Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act was passed by unanimous vote by the Texas Senate on April 26. The legislation, introduced by Republican State Senator Donna Campbell, would ban individuals or companies connected with China, Iran, North Korea, Russia from entering into contracts relating to the state’s critical infrastructure.

The bill aims to protect infrastructure including the state’s electric grid, communications system, cybersecurity system, and water treatment facilities. Other countries could also be barred if deemed a threat to Texas’ infrastructure by the governor, in consultation with the Department of Public Safety.  If it is passed by the state’s House of Representatives and signed into law by the governor, the legislation will take effect on Sept. 1.

Campbell cited the proposed construction of a wind farm in western Texas’ Val Verde County as the reason for the bill. The land for the wind farm is owned by a Chinese company, founded by a billionaire who was formerly a Chinese military officer. Officials and experts have raised alarm over the Chinese project, saying it poses a threat to national security.

A Chinese-owned company called GH America Investment Group since 2015 has bought 130,000 acres of land—an area the size of Tulsa, Oklahoma—in Val Verde County. The man behind the investment firm is Sun Guangxin, a businessman from Xinjiang, China, who has strong ties to the communist regime.

Sun, a former military officer, is currently the richest person in the western Xinjiang region—where the regime is committing genocide against ethnic Muslim minorities. He has a net worth of $1.9 billion, according to Forbes, and was also the vice chairman of the Xinjiang Provincial Youth Federation.

Sun’s investment company acquired the land to build wind farms, with a proposal to install 50 to 130 wind turbines. The land is about 30 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and near the Laughlin Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force’s largest pilot training facility.

A Chinese-owned wind farm, which generates electricity to be fed into Texas’ electric grid, poses a risk to the state’s critical infrastructure, critics say. Potential cyberattacks on the electrical grid could disrupt power utility operations, resulting in large-scale power outages.

A recently released annual threat assessment (pdf) by the U.S. intelligence community said the Chinese regime’s cyber-capabilities “at a minimum, can cause localized, temporary disruptions to critical infrastructure within the United States.”

Critics add that the project could also be used to collect intelligence on U.S. border security operations and the Air Force’s activities at Laughlin.

Campbell described the project as a “Trojan horse.”

“Why do they want to put this in Val Verde County, where the wind doesn’t really blow? Why is this area, where the turbine farm was going to be, 65 miles from our Laughlin Air Force Base, a strategic pilot training base?” Campbell said on the Senate floor on April 26.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency panel that reviews foreign acquisitions for national security risks, has already reviewed the wind farm project and found that it didn’t pose security concerns. Campbell, however, is hoping that the plans could still be halted given that construction hasn’t started.

“While it’s not retroactive, they haven’t built the wind turbines yet … we’re going to push [the bill] through to make it effective as soon as we can,” she told FISM News on April 28.

Emel Akan contributed to this report. 

May 5, 2021 10:25 am

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