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Two wind suits tossed

A judge on Thursday threw out two of three lawsuits involving proposed wind farms in Osage County, dealing a blow to the Osage Nation’s efforts to stop a forest of industrial turbines from rising over the tallgrass prairie west of Pawhuska.

A judge on Thursday threw out two of three lawsuits involving proposed wind farms in Osage County, dealing a blow to the Osage Nation’s efforts to stop a forest of industrial turbines from rising over the tallgrass prairie west of Pawhuska.

Ottawa County District Court Judge Robert G. Haney, sitting by special assignment, dismissed both cases in which the Osage Nation and the Osage Minerals Council were plaintiffs. The Osages had challenged the authority of the Osage County Board of Adjustment to issue a conditional use permit for a 94-turbine project called Osage Wind in 2011, arguing that county boards of adjustment do not have that power under state law and that the permit should be ruled void. The other case was an appeal of the Board of Adjustment’s denial of a tribal petition to stop construction of Osage Wind, which has begun bulldozing the prairie as it prepares to erect turbines.

A third case remains active in Osage County District Court, though Haney appeared anxious to make quick work of it. In that case, a second wind farm, Mustang Run, is appealing the Board of Adjustment’s May 8 decision to deny it a permit to build a second wind farm consisting of about 68 turbines... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A judge on Thursday threw out two of three lawsuits involving proposed wind farms in Osage County, dealing a blow to the Osage Nation’s efforts to stop a forest of industrial turbines from rising over the tallgrass prairie west of Pawhuska.

Ottawa County District Court Judge Robert G. Haney, sitting by special assignment, dismissed both cases in which the Osage Nation and the Osage Minerals Council were plaintiffs. The Osages had challenged the authority of the Osage County Board of Adjustment to issue a conditional use permit for a 94-turbine project called Osage Wind in 2011, arguing that county boards of adjustment do not have that power under state law and that the permit should be ruled void. The other case was an appeal of the Board of Adjustment’s denial of a tribal petition to stop construction of Osage Wind, which has begun bulldozing the prairie as it prepares to erect turbines.

A third case remains active in Osage County District Court, though Haney appeared anxious to make quick work of it. In that case, a second wind farm, Mustang Run, is appealing the Board of Adjustment’s May 8 decision to deny it a permit to build a second wind farm consisting of about 68 turbines next to Osage Wind. The Osage County Commissioners and Board of Adjustment are the defendants in all three cases.

Mustang Run and Osage Wind started out as separately owned wind farms, but are now both owned by Enel SpA, the Italian utility giant. In court pleadings, the company says it has irrevocably committed $225 million to the projects.

Objections to the wind projects are mostly environmental, centering on the area being one of the last shreds of tallgrass prairie that has never been plowed or fragmented.

Haney said that the Osage case demanding that the 2011 wind farm permit be declared void should have been brought earlier as part of a federal lawsuit the tribe filed that year in which it claimed the wind farms would interfere with oil extraction. The Osage Nation owns all mineral rights in Osage County.

The tribe’s attorney, John Moody, replied that zoning issues fall under state, not federal statutes, but Haney was unmoved.

“It’s patently unfair to wait three years, after a party has gone to the expense of doing this deal,” Haney said. “You can’t way ‘Wait a minute, you shouldn’t have been allowed to do that in the first place. Pack up your stuff and go home.’”

Mustang Run has asked for a “trial de novo” in its appeal from the Board of Adjustment, but Haney said he saw no point in conducting a trial anew when he had already read stacks of transcripts and evidence in the case amassed by the Board of Adjustment.

“I don’t believe in wasting my time reading something then listening to something,” he said Thursday.

Haney said he wanted to try the Mustang Run case on Thursday, which had lawyers sputtering: No witnesses had been called, nor had Haney even ruled on the standing of the Osage Nation to intervene in the case.

“I came up here today with the idea I wanted this cases resolved,” Haney declared. “If you don’t like my rulings, appeal them.”

Replied attorney Gene Dennison, who represents the Osage Minerals Council: “The Osage Nation and Minerals County deserve a full and complete hearing as it relates to the destruction its property and its future.”

In the end, Haney said he would hear only new evidence at a trial, and would otherwise rule based on the voluminous existing record.

Haney gave the Osage Nation and Osage County until Sept. 10 to file trial briefs and establish whether they have new evidence to merit live testimony at a trial; Mustang Run has until Sept. 17 to reply.


Source: http://barnsdalltimes.com/h...

AUG 29 2014
https://www.windaction.org/posts/41121-two-wind-suits-tossed
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