A federal court is not the proper place for a lawsuit against a wind energy company, the defendant wrote in court documents.
NextEra Energy Resources LLC attorneys sought to dismiss a lawsuit over a proposed wind farm development in Caddo County. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission should handle those disputes, according to company’s motion to dismiss filed March 6 with U.S. District Court in the Western District of Oklahoma.
The Scenic Prairie Preservation Association initially filed the petition in Caddo County court. The group alleged NextEra violated a 2011 state law requiring proper public notice of intent to build a wind farm. The case was later moved to federal court.
The Oklahoma Wind Energy Development Act requires wind farm companies to notify the Corporation Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration of proposed turbine locations. The intent notice must also be filed with county commissioners, as well as be published in local newspapers.
Attorney Kimberlee Spady represents the plaintiffs and alleged in her petition that NextEra filed the forms, but did not include the latitude and longitude of each turbine or specify the distance from the nearest airport, among other things. The public notices published in The Hinton Record also didn’t include information required by state law, Spady wrote.
Spady is the registered agent for the Scenic Prairie Preservation Association, according to the Oklahoma secretary of state. The nonprofit was formed Jan. 23.
Brandy Wreath, Corporation Commission public utilities consumer service division director, said his staff is responsible for investigating complaints related to the Wind Energy Development Act. Records show his division has not received any complaints alleging NextEra violated the rule, he said. However, his enforcement staff will investigate the allegations made in the lawsuit, he said.
His office receives phone calls asking whether notice of a proposed wind farm has been filed, but typically the issue boils down to a miscommunication, he said.
“We have found more often than not, people didn’t notice the (public) notice,” Wreath said.
Most of the developers are closely aligned with the state wind industry trade group and typically file the public notice before it’s due. His agency is working to improve its website so the notices and reports are easier to find, he said.
“We want people to have access to it without having to ask for it,” Wreath said.
Spady did not return requests for comment by publication time. NextEra’s contract attorney, Jim Roth, wrote in an email to The Journal Record that his client believes the lawsuit is without merit. The motion to dismiss demonstrates the proper venue, he wrote.