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Canadian County crop duster files lawsuit against developers of planned wind farm in Oklahoma

A longtime crop-dusting company in Canadian County has sued the developers of a 300-megawatt wind farm under construction over a planned electricity transmission line.

Escott Rentals LLC, which is operated by father-son duo Rick and Tanner Escott, said a 90-foot-tall transmission line from Canadian Hills Wind LLC will impede the flights of its crop-dusting operation.

The wind farm, which began construction in April, countered in court filings it had obtained the necessary easements near Escott’s property to erect the transmission lines. It also said the Federal Aviation Administration signed off on the project as safe for airplane navigation.

Gabe Bass, attorney for Escott Rentals, said the company has been in business more than 50 years and has added hangars and underground storage tanks to its half-mile-long private airstrip near El Reno.

Bass said the Escotts aren’t opposed to the wind farm project but want to protect their business. Most of their customers are farmers in and around Canadian County.

“It’s just a balancing of the rights of them to build their transmission line and of my client’s right to operate their business,” Bass said. “It’s a significant threat to their business if they can’t fly out of there.”

Bass said he was hopeful a solution could be worked out that would satisfy both sides.

Attorneys for Canadian Hills Wind did not return calls for comment Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed in Canadian County District Court but has been moved to federal court in Oklahoma City.

The $470 million Canadian Hills Wind project is owned by Boston-based Atlantic Power Corp. Another company, Apex Wind Energy Inc., owns 1 percent and is managing construction of the wind farm. Construction will employ almost 200 people.

Canadian Hills Wind is expected to be finished late this year and provide 15 to 20 permanent jobs. The project will generate enough electricity to power up to 100,000 homes. It has long-term contracts to supply Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, the Grand River Dam Authority and Louisiana-based Southwestern Electric Power Co., which is part of American Electric Power Co. Inc.

Apex said the project will pay local landowners $1.8 million annually in lease payments and generate more than $2.4 million in property tax revenue for local schools and government.