A group of central Oklahoma landowners upset with planned wind farms have filed a nuisance lawsuit in federal court in Oklahoma City.
The lawsuit, brought by the Oklahoma Wind Action Association, wants protection from the loss of use and value of landowners’ property. The suit names several companies associated with Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy Inc.
Apex plans the 300-megawatt Kingfisher project in northern Canadian County and southern Kingfisher County. The company hasn’t yet started construction on the wind farm.
The lawsuit refers to health and safety concerns of residents near wind farms, including low-frequency sound and “shadow flicker” from the blades at certain times of the day. The complaint seeks class-action status and a permanent injunction against further development.
Among the seven landowners involved in the lawsuit is Terra Walker, who lives in Okarche. She said 58 wind turbines are planned with three miles of her home, with the closest about half a mile away.
“We just want them to be a safe distance to where our health and safety isn’t in jeopardy,” Walker said. “The studies and evidence out there right now show these health effects go up to three miles.”
Walker said landowners went to city, county and state officials with their concerns but were told the state didn’t have the necessary regulatory powers.
“We don’t have any regulations, and litigation is our only option,” Walker said.
Kent Dougherty, director of development for Apex, said in an email he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit.
“However, Apex welcomes the opportunity to work with local communities and has a proven track record of making good-faith efforts to address community concerns,” Dougherty said. “Numerous third-party studies on the impact of wind turbines on both health and property values repeatedly demonstrate that there are no measurable impacts.”
Jeff Clark, executive director of The Wind Coalition, a regional trade group, said the lawsuit is part of an “ongoing misinformation campaign” designed to stop development in the area.
“In the absence of facts and medical research, the opponents of development, as plaintiffs, hope they can generate support for their cause with a high-profile – yet frivolous – case,” Clark said in an email.
Clark pointed to a recent study by the Washington-based Energy and Policy Institute that found eight court cases on wind farm nuisances have been brought in the United States since 1998. Seven cases found no harm from wind energy, although a case in Falmouth, Mass., mentioned dental harm and other health ailments.
The law firm handling the Kingfisher case for the Oklahoma Wind Action Association also represented the city of Piedmont after its council passed an ordinance in 2012 calling industrial wind turbines a “public nuisance.”
A group of landowners who signed leases with Apex sued the city. Piedmont’s city ordinance was repealed almost in December after Apex and city officials reached a settlement and the lawsuit was dropped.
The Piedmont agreement mapped out parts of northeast Canadian County and a sliver of southeast Kingfisher County where Apex agreed not to place turbines for the project.
Corporation Commission inquiry
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has opened a notice of inquiry on several wind farm issues, including siting, notification of surrounding landowners and strengthening Oklahoma’s law on decommissioning wind turbines.
The first technical conference is planned for 10 a.m. Sept. 11 in Oklahoma City.
The inquiry came after several pieces of legislation related to wind development failed to advance in this year’s legislative session. The study was requested by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa.
Brent Robinson, president of the Oklahoma Wind Action Association, said his group wants a three-mile setback from property lines for wind turbines in the state. The association was formed in February and has more than 150 members in Canadian and Kingfisher counties.
“Industrial wind energy in Oklahoma is unregulated, allowing companies to build wind farms wherever they can make deals with landowners without any required notice to those impacted,” Robinson said in a news release.
Other groups advocating for more oversight include the Oklahoma Property Rights Association and Wind Waste, which opposes the state’s tax incentives for wind development. Both groups are spearheaded by Frank Robson, a Claremore businessman.
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