WOODWARD – Opponents to expanding wind energy on public land are voicing their opinions, and sometimes in a loud manner.
About 50 of those opponents met Wednesday with OG&E Electric Services and Department of Wildlife Conservation officials to discuss concerns about expanding Centennial Wind Farm north of Fort Supply onto Cooper Wildlife Management Area. It is a scenario OG&E says will not happen.
In light of growing local and statewide opposition and concern by wildlife organizations about the impact to the region’s natural habitat, OG&E has declined to pursue the development of any wind energy on public land, officials said.
However, OG&E still plans to continue its bid to pursue wind energy development on private land, and there is a large project for the development of high voltage transmission lines running from Guymon through the Woodward area and into Oklahoma City.
Earlier this month, OG&E officials said they heard the concerns and would continue its tradition of being a good neighbor by not developing on the public land.
But despite the announcement, some residents, spooked by the idea and anticipating more such proposals by other companies, hoped to use the forum Wednesday as an opportunity to impress upon state wildlife commissioners their opposition to any company developing on publicly owned land.
We belong to the land
Pat Clark, of Mooreland, has lived in the region for 68 years.
“I pray to God that the Wildlife Department has the wisdom to keep this development off our public lands,” Clark said. “We (the sportsmen) purchased Cooper eight or 10 years ago … if we allow them to develop on Cooper, how long before they get to Packsaddle.”
Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area covers 17,000 acres in northwest Ellis County, far south of Cooper.
James Peach represents Quail Forever, a sportsman’s organization.
He presented a petition with 127 signatures in opposition to any such development on public land here.
Sue Selman, of Selman Ranch, also was in attendance with a petition. She said wind energy development was sold to people based on the “hysteria of global warming” and did not produce a viable trade off where the reduction of greenhouse gasses is concerned.
“How can you justify destroying western Oklahoma so that other people in other states can have electricity?” Selman said.
Representatives from National Wild Turkey Federation also were in attendance to express opposition.
Looking to the future
But others, such as local real estate professional Douglas Eagon, hinted at other considerations.
“Wind energy is here,” he said. “We have to make certain that we have our long-term glasses on to see where we need to be in 10 years from now.”
In its presentation Wednesday night, OG&E spokesman Jesse B. Langston reminded residents OG&E is regulated by Oklahoma Corporation Commission and would be a better negotiator than other companies coming in to develop wind energy who are middlemen selling power to utilities.
Eagon said he believed, in light of possible legislation pushing wind energy, negotiating with OG&E is better than the other options of non-regulated companies, which might come in the future and urged people to consider those facts with regard to private land development. However, Eagon was outspoken in his opposition to development of wind on public land.
“Fern Cooper used to be known as ‘Big Momma,’” Eagon said. “And if Big Momma were here, she would say what she thinks, and I feel pretty sure she did not decide to give of her own private holding to see it used that way.”
By Rachael Van Horn
CNHI News Service
14 March 2008
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