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Today, many of the same political leaders who initially welcomed the wind industry want to regulate it more tightly, even in red states like Oklahoma, where candidates regularly rail against government interference. The change of heart is happening as wind farms creep closer to more heavily populated areas.
After more than a decade of rapid growth in Oklahoma, the wind industry is like a teenager that might need some guidance as its developments grow closer to populated areas and conflicts arise. That was among the opinions offered Thursday at a packed meeting at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to study wind farm siting, notification of landowners and decommissioning.
The lawsuit was brought against Apex Clean Energy Inc., Apex Clean Energy Holdings LLC, Kingfisher Wind LLC, Kingfisher Wind Land Holdings LLC, Kingfisher Transmission LLC, Campbell Creek Wind LLC and Campbell Creek Wind Transmission LLC. The plaintiffs all live within three miles of the planned wind farm and own property within the “no-build” zone of the planned locations of the wind turbines, the suit says.
The Osage Agency’s Bureau of Indian Affairs Superintendent says the office did not approve a wind farm ordinance recently established in Osage County and any wind turbine built “may have to be removed or relocated” if it interferes with the minerals estate.
Oklahoma is the nation's fourth-largest generator of wind energy. But wind developers in the northeast corner of the state, where the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve lies, are up against stiff opposition from an unlikely pair of allies: environmentalists and oil interests.
The fact-finding process was requested by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, after several pieces of legislation related to wind farms failed to advance through the Legislature.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission voted to open a notice of inquiry into wind farms. Two technical conferences to further refine questions are scheduled for Sept. 11 and Oct. 15. A hearing before the commission is set for Dec. 2. The text of the notice is provided below. The full document can be accessed by clicking the links on this page.
The little tallgrass prairie that remains in Oklahoma has survived because it’s rocky and elevated above the plain, which, historically, made it hard for farmers to plow. But that elevation has attracted interest from wind developers, which is why Hamilton says the Conservancy is fighting to keep TradeWind Energy’s 16,000-acre Mustang Run project from breaking ground near the preserve.
Among the issues to be discussed are what kinds of notification landowners near wind farms should get before projects start, as well as how to strengthen Oklahoma’s existing law for the decommissioning of wind farms. Other concerns include the effects on wildlife, property values and the economic benefits of wind farm development.
Robson is spending money on the fight, too. He has hired two lobbyists to counter representatives of wind energy, employs a marketing expert and is starting an effort called WindWaste to publicize the state’s wind policies. “They’re sucking all of the money out of the state budget to subsidize the wind energy,” Robson said. “Let them be like we are in business. If they make a profit, they should pay a tax.” Land tax oversight
"We recognize the legislative process is often an educational process getting everyone to understand the issues involved," Mosier said. "We think that regulation of this now-unregulated industry is important for the people of Oklahoma, and we want to get it right."
Citing a desire to preserve the unique prairie landscape on which an industrial wind-energy facility was to be located, an Osage County public board voted Thursday to deny a permit needed to allow construction of the 68-turbine Mustang Run project.
The Osage Nation and the Osage Minerals Council are filing petitions that challenge the board's authority to issue TradeWind the permit and saying the board should prohibit further construction of Osage Wind, for which the board issued a variance in 2011.
A public hearing on a proposed wind farm did not go smoothly for TradeWind Energy on Thursday, when the Osage County Board of Adjustment tabled the matter for a month after hearing a litany of criticism about the project’s location.
TradeWinds Energy is the second company in three years that has attempted construction of a wind-turbine farm on a wide stretch of prairie along U.S. Highway 60. In August 2011, Wind Capital Group survived its public hearing and was granted a conditional use permit needed to begin building a facility. Two years later, the project was sold to TradeWinds by Wind Capital.
Legislation that would put a moratorium on wind farms east of Interstate 35 passed the Oklahoma Senate last week and now heads to the House. ...supporters of legislation calling for the three-year stoppage said the industry is relatively unregulated and more study is needed.
Senators voted 32-8 to pass Senate Bill 1440, which would halt wind developments east of Interstate 35 until 2017 in areas that have poor wind resources. Lobbyists for the wind industry said the bill could harm developments statewide and interferes with private leasing contracts.
As wind farm developments expand into new areas of Oklahoma, conflict has grown between landowners who want wind turbines and those who want to limit development. The disputes have led to calls for greater regulation from state lawmakers.
Nathan Baker, a staff attorney for FOCG, said the Aug. 29 Supreme Court decision “isn’t the final say in the matter.” “According to the Supreme Court, several issues are yet to be resolved, including wildlife mitigation and forest practices. In the words of the Supreme Court, these issues are not yet ‘ripe.’” Baker added, “Friends and SOSA will continue to participate in the public process on these and other unresolved issues.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled a Sept. 12 meeting with representatives from the Osage Nation and Wind Capitol Group, agency officials said. More than a dozen eagle-take applications have been filed with the federal agency since Wind Capital submitted its request in October 2012 - but, to date, no permits have been granted. Officials expect the Osage Wind application to be the first considered.