US military base’s green energy project with CCP ties disconnected over national security concerns

A U.S. energy developer said it shuttered a battery storage facility connected to its solar panel array located on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, citing national security concerns.

North Carolina-based Duke Energy confirmed to Fox News Digital Wednesday the facility, which began operations in April, was disconnected late last week after Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate raised concerns about the project. 

The storage facility was constructed with batteries manufactured by Contemporary Amperex Technology, Limited (CATL), a Chinese company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) apparatus.

“Nevertheless, some concerns about this project have been raised, and, as a result, Duke Energy disconnected these batteries as we work to address these questions,” Duke Energy spokesperson Kaitlin Kirshner told Fox News Digital in a statement. “As an American energy company, we welcome the ability to use American-manufactured batteries.

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U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Andrew M. Niebel, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East-Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (fourth from the left) cuts a ribbon during an April 13 ceremony opening Duke Energy’s battery storage facility. The facility was constructed with CATL batteries, seen behind the officials during the ceremony. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Loriann Dauscher)

“Given the rapidly increasing demand for electricity, we support more domestic manufacturing to help expand energy resources in the United States and accelerate the energy transition.”

Kirshner added that Duke Energy designs its projects with “security in mind.” She further noted the battery storage facility was connected to Duke Energy’s system with a “robust network security and safeguards fully in place,” not to Camp Lejeune’s internal network or other systems.

Duke Energy’s action to disconnect the new facility was taken almost immediately after more than two dozen lawmakers led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., the chairman of the House Select Committee on the CCP, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Friday expressing concern about the project and its ties to CATL.

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“In safeguarding our national security, decisive actions must be taken to eliminate potential threats,” Rubio told Fox News Digital in a statement. “Disconnecting systems supported by the Chinese Communist Party is common sense, especially when it comes to securing our military bases. It is important that we as a nation take proactive, not reactive, measures to protect ourselves from our adversaries.”

In their letter Friday, Rubio, Gallagher and the other lawmakers said the Camp Lejeune project should be completely reversed and that the Department of Defense should review whether CATL systems have been installed at other U.S. military bases. 

Camp Lejeune Marine Base

Signage at the main gate to Camp Lejeune Marine Base outside Jacksonville, N.C., April 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

The letter notes Fujian, China-based CATL is closely linked to the highest levels of the CCP, and Chinese President Xi Jinping even praised the company earlier this year. And the letter cites a recent report published by the nonpartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which raises the alarm on CATL’s rapid expansion in the U.S. green energy market.

“CATL and other companies involved in the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses, including the Uyghur genocide, should not be allowed to build critical infrastructure for U.S. military bases like Camp Lejeune,” Gallagher told Fox News Digital.

“FDD’s new report illustrates the U.S. critical infrastructure vulnerabilities created by introducing battery electric storage systems from foreign entities of concern — like those installed at Camp Lejeune — into some of the most critical parts of the U.S. power grid,” he said. “Our service members need to be ready to defend our country at a moment’s notice; we cannot allow their readiness to depend on our nation’s foremost adversary, the Chinese Communist Party.”

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Although it is not state-owned, Chinese investors tied to the CCP have held financial stakes in CATL, according to a New York Times review. The Chinese government has also taken strategic steps over the last decade to bolster CATL and other electric vehicle companies based in China.

Marco Rubio and Mike Gallagher

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., chairman of the House Select Committee on the CCP, raised alarm about Camp Lejeune’s battery facility last week. (Getty Images)

In addition, Zeng Yuqun, who founded CATL in 2012 and remains its top executive, was identified last year as a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee. According to a U.S. government report published in 2018, the CPPCC is a “critical coordinating body” that brings together representatives of Chinese interest groups and is led by the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee.

In March 2022, the CPPCC highlighted Yuqun’s work with CATL fortifying China’s lithium supply chains, which are crucial for electric vehicle production and other green energy development.

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“Legislators from both political parties are slowly waking up to the fact that China is seeking to strategically position itself to dominate our electric future,” Craig Singleton, the author of the report cited by Gallagher and deputy director of FDD’s China Program, told Fox News Digital in an interview Wednesday. 

“It’s very clear that policymaker pressure can result in meaningful changes, even if the Biden administration has been lax in fully vetting these battery systems, all in pursuit of decarbonization or a transition away from fossil fuels.”

CATL CEO Robin Zeng presents the plans for the construction of a factory. (Photo by Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

CATL CEO Robin Zeng presents plans for the construction of a factory. (Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

“While Duke Energy should be applauded for proactively discontinuing this battery system and turning it off, it raises lots of questions about where else these batteries have been deployed across the United States, potentially on sensitive U.S. military facilities,” Singleton added. 

“I fear that we are really just at the starting point of what has to be a much deeper conversation about China’s access to our electrical grids and our critical infrastructure and the lack of stringent oversight which is very clearly a looming national security blind spot.”

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Ford Motor Company announced earlier this year it would build an electric vehicle battery plant in Marshall, Michigan. As part of the announcement, the U.S. automaker said it had reached an agreement with CATL to manufacture the battery cells at the plant using services provided by the Chinese company.

Since the announcement, which was applauded by Michigan state Democrats, Ford has faced growing pressure to cancel its deal with CATL. The company announced it would scale the project down last month.

The U.S. Marine Corps did not respond to a request for comment. The Department of Defense declined to comment.

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