A local senator has filed legislation that, if approved, could put a halt to a proposed wind farm project west of Piedmont.
Sen. Rob Johnson’s bill seeks to enact a moratorium on wind turbine construction located within a 10-mile radius of cities with a population of 200,000 or more. Apex Wind Energy has proposed a wind farm that would place turbines between Piedmont and Okarche, but the bill would stop the construction of those turbines because it is within 10 miles of Oklahoma City, which has a population of 591,967.
“I am a supporter of wind energy, but they don’t have very much regulation in [Oklahoma] and they are moving in towards the Metro area very fast,” said Johnson, R-Yukon. “I think we need to slow down and look at some things first.”
The city of Piedmont has already denied the placement of wind turbines inside its city limits but dozens of turbines would still be placed just beyond the city’s border, according to Apex officials. The project has been controversial with some area residents saying a major wind farm near Piedmont would pose safety risks and hurt property values.
The project has also led some Piedmont property owners to seek deannexation in hopes of getting turbines built on their property.
Senate Bill 912, which would impose a moratorium on wind turbine construction for up to five years, was approved Thursday by the Senate Committee on Energy. For the bill to go into effect it must be approved by both the Oklahoma House and Senate and then receive approval from the governor. Johnson said he is also seeking an emergency clause on the bill that would make it valid immediately following the governor’s signature.
Johnson’s bill might be in a race with the Virginia-based energy company that has said it had hoped to start construction on the wind farm project as early as April.
Johnson has also filed a bill that would give Canadian County the ability to create a metropolitan area planning commission in order to regulate the placement of wind turbines in unincorporated parts of the county. There had been some confusion as to whether state law allows for such a commission in Canadian County since counties with a city over 200,000 in population are prevented from creating a planning commission.
An opinion from Senior Assistant Attorney General Sandra D. Rinehart stated that Canadian County would not be able to create a metropolitan area planning commission because it includes parts of Oklahoma City. Johnson’s bill, SB 1012, would change that.
“Unless you have a city with 200,000 people actually living in the county I think this law should not apply,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the intent of the law.”
If approved, Johnson’s bill would give the county commissioners the ability to create a planning commission that could regulate the placement of wind turbines in unincorporated parts of the county.
Neither of the bills would prevent cities like Piedmont from one day allowing wind turbines inside their boundaries.
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