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Legislative leaders ask Oklahoma Corporation Commission to study wind farm siting

Legislative leaders have asked the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to study wind farm siting after issues were raised earlier in the session over developments planned in the eastern half of the state.

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, sent a letter to corporation commissioners Monday asking its public utility division to start a notice of inquiry into wind farm siting and the decommissioning of old wind farms.

The letter comes after a bill to impose a moratorium until 2017 on wind farms east of Interstate 35 appears to be dormant for the session. Senate Bill 1440 passed the Senate but didn’t get a hearing in a House committee.

Bingman said appropriate wind energy development deserves more study. His letter asks the Corporation Commission to study if it should oversee the siting of new wind farms. The letter also wants guidelines for the proper decommissioning of wind farms, including possible fines and enforcement mechanisms for failure to complete decommissioning.

“I believe it is imperative for all stakeholders to have full, ample opportunity for relevant input, and my understanding is the commission’s NOI (notice of inquiry) process affords all interested persons such opportunity,” Bingman said in a news release. “I look forward to seeing the commission’s findings and considering further legislative action that may be needed in the future.”

In the letter, Bingman said the inquiry shouldn’t involve tax incentives for the wind industry or landowner private rights.

“Those raise distinct concerns that would be difficult to address in the context of a commission NOI,” Bingman wrote.

The Oklahoma Wind Energy Development Act went into effect in 2011 and includes a decommissioning process for wind turbines, but some wind farm opponents said it isn’t strict enough.

The Oklahoma Property Rights Association, which pushed for SB 1440 and other measures, said it was disappointed the legislation stalled this year but welcomed further study of the issue.

“There are many problems with the way this industry operates in Oklahoma, but at a minimum sensible laws are needed to safeguard our land and communities to ensure wind farms are appropriately located, safely operated and well-maintained,” said Frank Robson, founder of the association.

Robson, a Claremore businessman, was among the landowners who didn’t like plans by EDP Renewables North America to build a 59-turbine development near Centralia in western Craig County. Robson’s family has a 15,000-acre ranch in the county.

The Wind Coalition, a regional trade group, said it planned to work with the Corporation Commission on its inquiry.

“Oklahoma is one of America’s leading energy producing states, and wind energy is rapidly becoming a key part of the Oklahoma energy economy,” said Jeff Clark, the coalition’s executive director. “The development of our state’s wind energy resources provides clean and inexpensive power while creating economic opportunity across rural Oklahoma.”