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Judge turns down injunction request in Osage County wind farm trial

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell turned down a request for an injuction to stop a proposed wind farm in Osage County.

The Osage Nation, through the Osage Minerals Council, filed the complaint on Oct. 18. The lawsuit asserts that the tribe owns all the minerals located “in and under” Osage County and claims that construction of the wind turbines would interfere with future oil and natural gas production, which provides “essential” income for eligible Osage citizens.

A Texas petroleum engineer testified Thursday in Tulsa that he believes a proposed wind farm can co-exist with planned drilling on the same land in Osage County, just as he said similar developments have elsewhere in the country.

John C. McBeath, a vice president with the Austin, Texas-based Platt, Sparks & Associates, testified on the second day of a non-jury trial in a case brought by the Osage Nation in which the tribe seeks to stop the construction of the potential 94-turbine facility west of Pawhuska.

McBeath, called to the stand by defendants Wind Capital Group and Osage Wind, testified Thursday that the potential problems outlined by the tribe are largely speculative. He said even if conflicts develop between the wind farm and oil production they can be worked out through directional drilling or moving a well site.

McBeath said oil companies will still have “reasonable access” to do what they need to do and will still have the capability to drill profitable wells, even if they incur modest additional costs caused by working around the wind farm.

He testified that in the oil drilling business, “If you’re not prepared for some amount of waiting, you shouldn’t be drilling wells.”

Tom Green, senior manager of project development for Wind Capital Group, testified earlier Thursday that he believes it would be possible for the wind farm to be constructed in harmony with the future drilling efforts of Orion Exploration or any other organization.

Green testified an agreement has already been reached with another oil company to move one of the wind turbines 85 feet to the north of where it was originally planned. “Our intention is to work with anybody,” Green said.

According to the tribe’s trial brief, the Osage Nation has entered into an agreement with Orion Exploration to drill at least 18 horizontal oil and gas wells by early November 2014, with the first five wells to be completed by Nov. 4, 2012.

A document filed by the defense this week states that the tribe’s agreement with Orion involves more than 19,000 acres, with less than 2,500 of that total overlapping with the location of the proposed wind farm.

Orion Exploration Vice President Daniel B. “Skip” Honeyman III testified Wednesday during the tribe’s case that while the first two anticipated drilling sites lie outside the wind farm area, the third one is within its boundaries.

Green testified Thursday that he didn’t find out about Orion’s drilling plans until after the lawsuit was filed. He said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to discuss the situation with Orion officials because of their roles as witnesses called by the Osages.

Green acknowledged this would be the first wind farm that Wind Capital would attempt to construct on an active oil field, although McBeath later on Thursday illustrated for the court other examples of wind farms co-existing with drilling.

Developers claim they need to break ground very soon in order for the wind farm project to be completed by the end of 2012 and thus qualify for an essential tax credit.