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OG&E, landowners in power struggle

Purvine and John Oler, a landowner near Watonga, dispute that there was much negotiation. "They came to us and made an offer and said we would either take that offer or they would file eminent domain," Purvine said. "There was no recourse. That's the way it was." Oler, 64, said the OG&E representative essentially told him, "Do it our way, or we condemn you."

Conflict is brewing between Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. and some northwestern Oklahoma landowners over OG&E's attempts to condemn property for a high-voltage transmission line to transport wind-generated electricity.

"I have a neighbor with a pacemaker. He told me he will never be able to go on his property again," said Jimmie Purvine, 61, who is fighting condemnation of a 1 1/2-mile-long strip across his Dewey County property. "That could be me in another four years."

Some landowners say they are concerned the lines could interfere with crop dusting or damage global positioning systems on high-dollar farming equipment.

Others say they believe the transmission lines will devalue their property and that they don't like the way the towers look. They also say OG&E representatives are unwilling to negotiate before resorting to condemnation.

The 120-mile, 345-kilovolt transmission line will be used to move electricity to the Oklahoma City area from wind farms near Woodward. Many western Oklahoma landowners report that OG&E has been offering about $2,000 an acre for the right to use 200-foot-wide strips across their land, an... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Conflict is brewing between Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. and some northwestern Oklahoma landowners over OG&E's attempts to condemn property for a high-voltage transmission line to transport wind-generated electricity.

"I have a neighbor with a pacemaker. He told me he will never be able to go on his property again," said Jimmie Purvine, 61, who is fighting condemnation of a 1 1/2-mile-long strip across his Dewey County property. "That could be me in another four years."

Some landowners say they are concerned the lines could interfere with crop dusting or damage global positioning systems on high-dollar farming equipment.

Others say they believe the transmission lines will devalue their property and that they don't like the way the towers look. They also say OG&E representatives are unwilling to negotiate before resorting to condemnation.

The 120-mile, 345-kilovolt transmission line will be used to move electricity to the Oklahoma City area from wind farms near Woodward. Many western Oklahoma landowners report that OG&E has been offering about $2,000 an acre for the right to use 200-foot-wide strips across their land, an attorney said.

Brian Alford, an OG&E spokesman, said he believes many concerns voiced by landowners are unfounded, including worries about health risks to heart patients with pacemakers.

"Intuitively, if you look at the amount of these kinds of transmission lines that cross not only Oklahoma, but the nation, literally hundreds of thousands of miles, you would think this would have been a problem that would have been identified," Alford said. "We don't see any indication that it poses health risks."

Alford said he is aware that at least some pacemaker manufacturers and doctors encourage patients with pacemakers to avoid being around power lines. However, he said those same manufacturers and doctors warn pacemaker patients about security devices, leaning over running car engines and carrying cell phones in shirt pockets.

"I think our willingness to negotiate was demonstrated by the fact we were able to reach settlements with the vast majority of landowners along this route," Alford said. "For those landowners who believe they were not receiving fair value, there is the legal process that will ultimately determine that."

Purvine and John Oler, a landowner near Watonga, dispute that there was much negotiation.

"They came to us and made an offer and said we would either take that offer or they would file eminent domain," Purvine said. "There was no recourse. That's the way it was."

Oler, 64, said the OG&E representative essentially told him, "Do it our way, or we condemn you."

Oler continued, "I just don't like them telling me they're going to run this thing across me, and there's nothing I can do about it.

"I live out here in the country for a reason. I kind of like to be left alone. It devalues the property, and I'm not particularly fond of having to look at it, either."

Oler said his brother manages the Watonga airport, and he knows the power line will create a hazard for crop dusters.

"You can't dodge everything. All that stuff presents a risk," Oler said.

Purvine said he wants people to know he's not against economic development or wind farms.

"I realize in western Oklahoma anything that benefits the economy is essential for the area," he said.

Purvine simply wants OG&E to address his concerns and negotiate a fair price for losses he believes he will experience, he said.

He also said he has read that high-voltage lines affect the sensory systems of livestock.

"It will mess up our (farm equipment) GPS systems," he said. "My brother-in-law tells me he's having trouble under some lines that don't carry nearly the voltage that these lines will."

Purvine said power lines caused his relative's GPS device "to start buzzing and roaring on the screen, and he had to shut it off because he was afraid it was going to cause it to go bad."

Farmers rely on GPS for spraying, planting and other field work.

Alford said he has seen no research that would validate concerns about the power lines damaging GPS devices or harming livestock.

Several landowners have hired an Oklahoma City attorney, Robert Gum, to oppose OG&E's plan.

Gum argues that eminent domain is legally inappropriate in this case because OG&E is attempting to take private property for private use rather than public use.

He bases his argument on the contention that much of the power will be transmitted out of state and sold for the benefit of OG&E shareholders rather than being made available to Oklahomans.

Alford, the utility's spokesman, disputes Gum's reasoning.

"This line is being built for the primary purpose of providing our customers with wind energy," he said. "We're constructing these facilities to serve our customers. There will be a number of developers who build facilities in northwest Oklahoma that may very well utilize these lines to move their power, but our purpose is to deliver wind power to our customers and to improve electric service reliability in northwest Oklahoma."


Source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/b...

MAY 5 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/20136-og-e-landowners-in-power-struggle
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