Woodward, Okla. – About 100 people attended an informational meeting about transmission lines Thursday at High Plains Technology Center.
The meeting was held by the Southern Great Plains Property Rights Coalition and included a panel of attorneys and a landowner who discussed litigation and other issues concerning transmission line companies.
Speakers included Jimmy Purvine, a farmer and rancher in Dewey County, attorneys Bob Gum and Terry Stowers, and SGPPRC Board President Gary Stocking.
Stocking discussed the purpose of the organization.
“We are not opposed to wind turbines. With wind energy, come transmission lines. We just feel the people who get the transmission lines should be treated equal to the guy next door getting the wind turbine,” Stocking said. “One thing I have learned if you can’t do this yourself; it takes a group. We need to get behind the group and these men on the front line.”
Purvine discussed his experiences with OG&E and a tranmission line that came through his property.
Purvine said he was notified about 3 years ago by OG&E he could attended a town hall meeting to get a better understand about the transmission lines. He attended a meeting in Canton and signed a form saying he was opposed to the tranmission line. He said it had no effect on the company’s decision.
“They came through the county and started picking off the easy targets; the ones retiring that it would be a little extra income and they young who could use the money,” Purvine said.
When a representative from OG&E contacted Purvine, he spoke with his sister and made a list of question he would like answered.
“All I got was form answers. I told him I wanted answers. He told me if I wanted answers, I would have to hire an attorney,” Purvine said.
Purvine did hire a lawyer but he still ended up with the transmission line on his property. OG&E had eminent domain power because the project was declared for public use.
“I have silting problems and eroding problems. I’m not very satisfied with the way I was treated. OG&E has made not attempt to restore my land. I have 3 ponds affected by runoff,” said Purvine.
Purvine also said OG&E cut down lots of tree, ground them up and spewed the chips across his grass land and it no longer grows grass.
“They never came and talked to me. I took pictures of the process,’ Purvine said. “I am going to fight them to the end. They didn’t use any conservation efforts.”
Gum started as an oil and gas attorney but began venturing into wind energy.
He explained that negotiating with OG&E, a public utility, is difficult.
“You are up against the power of eminent domain. It is like if 2 people are having a disagreement. If they are both empty handed, it will go pretty evenly but if one has a gun and spinning it on a finger and fiddling with it, it changes thing. That gun is kind of like eminent domain,” Gum said.
OG&E was given eminent domain because the project was declared public use because OG&E said the lines will benefit their Oklahoma customers. Gum said he is currently fighting a company getting eminent domain, with a proposed transmission line that will cross Oklahoma but none of the energy transfered will benefit Oklahomans.
Gum said is also working to get what he and landowners feel is proper compensation for having transmission lines on a property.
“What compensation should you get for having lines on your property and losing your rights on your land?” Gum asked.
Gum said there are also two other lawsuits to be filed with transmission lines – condemnation and tort.
If in the process of placing a transmission line on your property the company condemns any more or anything different from what the originally stated, you can bring a lawsuit.
Tort is a claims of nuisance on how they treat your or what they don’t clean up.
“You have to stand together as a group to do any good. OG&E doesn’t like this organization. It has them scared. They aren’t used to being stood up to,” Gum said.
Stowers was a head attorney working with SGPPRC and the Coalition of Surface and Mineral Owners (COSMO) to try and keep Clean Line – a company planning transmission lines from the panhandle to Memphis, Tenn. – from getting public utility status.
“Our goals, when we started, we wanted to dispel the idea that being named a public utility gave them the automatic power of eminent domain.” he said. “We want to be sure it is for a public use project,” Stowers said.
The transmission line Clean Line is proposing is not like the OG&E transmission line because it does not provide services to Oklahoma.
“This line will not provide any electricity to Oklahoma. It is a DC line from Texas County to Tennessee or Georgia. The only benefit is the wind farms and jobs,” Stowers said.
Stowers estimated 3,500 to 5,000 wind turbine would be built to go with the line.
SGPPRC and COSMO intervened in Clean Line’s bid at the Corporation Commissioner to become a public utility. The groups worked together to come up with a private rights settlement agreement.
The agreement has not been approved by a judge yet but it is designed to provide future protection and fair treatment for property owners who negotiate transmission line easements with Clean Line.
“We can use Clean Line to raise the bar on how they (utility companies) deal with landowners. It won’t be binding to OG&E but we think it we raised the bar,” Stowers said.
In the agreement with Clean Line, SGPPRC and COSMO agreed to withdraw their protests of Clean Line’s application but they do not agree to support the application.
In the agreement, Clean Line agreed to offer two compensation options to all landowners. One that provides for one-time, up-front payment, followed by monthly payments and one that provides for a single payment.
“They proposed a Code of Conduct. They won’t be able to say, ‘take the offer or we will eminent domain it.’ If they violate their Code of Conduct, you now have a breach of contract claim. We’ve increased your leverage,” Stowers said.
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