PAWHUSKA – Citing a desire to preserve the unique prairie landscape on which an industrial wind-energy facility was to be located, an Osage County public board voted Thursday to deny a permit needed to allow construction of the 68-turbine Mustang Run project.
TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kan., has proposed to build Mustang Run on more than 5,000 acres of privately-owned land approximately 12 to 15 miles west of Pawhuska. The $1.6 billion, 1-gigawatt wind-turbine facility would be located along U.S. Highway 60, adjacent to another TransWind Energy-owned project planned on properties west of Mustang Run, near Burbank.
By a 3-0 vote, members of the Osage County Board of Adjustment denied TradeWind’s request for a conditional-use permit that would have cleared the way for the Mustang Run facility to be built.
Board Chairman Rick Hedrick said the decision resulted from a balancing act involving the energy that would be produced by the facility against the loss of natural habitat and “the loss of something that is unique to Osage County” that its construction would cause.
“When I balance all of those things, my thought is that wind farms are good, but I’m not sure this is the right place for them,” Hedrick said.
The decision followed an April 10 public hearing at which the board heard strong opposition to the wind-energy proposal from a broad spectrum of area property owners, including the Osage Nation Indian tribe, as well as wildlife advocates and conservation groups.
Thursday night’s vote came as an extension of the earlier meeting, which had been continued to allow the board to consider the multitude of arguments presented at the hearing.
A legal petition submitted on behalf of the Osage Nation attempted to invalidate the permit process involving the board. Attorneys for the tribe stated that wind-energy facilities are not an approved land use under any of the county’s current ordinances. According to the petition, the board’s 2011 vote to approve a conditional-use permit for the other wind farm project – Osage Wind – was improper.
Following the vote denying TradeWind’s Mustang Run application, the Osage Nation representatives asked the board to re-consider its 2011 decision on the Osage Wind project – which was approved for another wind-energy company and then sold last year to TradeWind.
In another unanimous vote, the board rejected the request to invalidate its previous action on Osage Wind.
Opponents of the wind projects have recently formed The Protect Osage Coalition, which is comprised of groups and organizations in Osage County and from around the state. Coalition organizers said it was created to represent the interests of tribal members, conservation groups, energy companies, chambers of commerce, tourism, ranchers, and landowners.
Supporters of the wind-energy project indicated they would continue attempts to advance construction of the facility.
Both sessions of the wind-farm hearing were held in the Osage County Fairgrounds’ Agriculture Building
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