May 10, 2014

Proposed moratorium on wind farms east of I-35 dead for now

By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau | Tulsa World | May 10, 2014 |

OKLAHOMA CITY — A controversial bill that proposes a moratorium on wind farms east of Interstate 35 appears to be dead for the session.

Senate Bill 1440, by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, would have created a three-year moratorium on the building of wind farms in the eastern half of the state.

Bingman said the bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 32-8, was not taken up by the House. He said the current session probably will not see legislation that addresses regulation of the industry.

“There won’t be a moratorium movement this year,” Bingman said.

The announcement was made Friday, one day after the Osage County Board of Adjustment voted to deny Lenexa, Kansas-based TradeWind Energy’s application for a permit to build a 16,000-acre wind farm near Pawhuska.

Another wind farm, the Osage Wind project, is currently under construction in Osage County.

The moratorium for the state’s eastern half had been proposed in the Legislature to give officials time to come up with reasonable regulations, said Rick Mosier, a member of the recently formed Oklahoma Property Rights Association.

Bingman said the issue of regulations for the industry could be taken up by an interim study. He said it is also possible that some regulation could be addressed by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

The bill had raised huge concerns within the industry, said Curt Roggow, a lobbyist for the Wind Coalition, a regional trade group.

“It would have brought several projects to a halt,” said Roggow, a former lawmaker. “There were not just one but several companies that were in the middle of development stages. It would have halted those projects, which means less revenue coming into the state as far as economic development.”

During the interim, industry supporters will discuss the issue and develop a more detailed plan, he said.

Claremore businessman Frank Robson founded the Oklahoma Property Rights Association after his neighbor wanted to put in a wind farm.

Robson said such a move would reduce his property value and impact wildlife.

“I think property rights are fine as long as what you do doesn’t harm your neighbor,” he said.

Robson and Mosier, who is president of Claremore-based Robson Properties, said they were disappointed that the measure did not get a hearing in the House after securing Senate approval.

“We recognize the legislative process is often an educational process — getting everyone to understand the issues involved,” Mosier said. “We think that regulation of this now-unregulated industry is important for the people of Oklahoma, and we want to get it right.”

Mosier said he anticipates that next session a bill will be introduced that would authorize the development of regulations for the industry.

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