A man was arrested Saturday by Eastland County Sheriff’s Department following a series of incidents that occurred on two separate occasions last week at Silver Star I, a wind farm located in Eastland and Erath Counties and operated by major energy producer BP America, Inc.
Eastland County Sheriff Wayne Bradford said Eastland County resident Roy Johnson, 67, was arrested on three charges and released following a night in jail and posting bond.
The event that led to Johnson’s arrest occurred Saturday morning when Johnson allegedly drove his truck to turbine No. 6 and under the blades of the turbine that was lying on the ground. Johnson damaged the blades of the turbine not once, but twice as he made a second pass.
Johnson was charged with one count of criminal mischief, over $20,000 and under $100,000, a third degree felony, punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 10 years in jail.
Bradford explained that following inspection of the damage, the charges may increase since total replacement of the blades, which are sold in sets of three would cost BP $300,000. It is estimated that if the blade can be repaired, it would cost $60,000.
Johnson was also charged with assault causing bodily injury to a BP employee, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $4,000 and up to one year in jail, and criminal mischief, a state jail felony, punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to two years in jail.
The second set of charges stem from an incident Thursday in which Johnson allegedly drove his tractor through a fence, destroying it. While Johnson was still on the tractor, the fencing wire wrapped around the truck of a BP employee and subsequently injured him.
Bradford said the dispute started during the initial phases of the project development when Clipper Windpower, Inc. had agreed to put five turbines on Johnson’s property. When BP took over 85 percent interest in the project, it was decided that there was a better location for the turbines, leaving Johnson with no hope of monthly royalty payments.
Instead, the turbines were placed on a neighboring property and a dispute ensued.
“In the case of the land dispute, there is nothing the sheriffs department can do,” Bradford explained. “The dispute would be a civil matter. The incidents that occurred last week were criminal so we stepped in and made the arrest.”
When contacted about the case, Sarah Howell, director of environmental and corporate communications for BP America, Inc., said that she could not comment on the case since it is currently under investigation.
Sources, who asked to remain anonymous due to the ongoing investigation, say that the incidents at the farm have left employees on edge and concerned for their safety. The source claims that BP has contracted security guards to protect their property from further damage.
It was two of those guards, Erath County constable Lee Roy Gaitan and Tarleton State University police officer Jeff “Chili” Alexander, who witnessed the incident that led to Johnson’s arrest.
By Amanda Kimble
9 April 2008
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