PAWHUSKA – A judge on Thursday threw out two of three lawsuits involving proposed wind farms in Osage County, dealing a blow to the Osage Nation’s efforts to stop a forest of industrial turbines from rising over the tallgrass prairie west of Pawhuska.
Ottawa County District Court Judge Robert G. Haney, sitting by special assignment, dismissed both cases in which the Osage Nation and the Osage Minerals Council were plaintiffs.
The Osages had challenged the authority of the Osage County Board of Adjustment to issue a conditional use permit for a 94-turbine project called Osage Wind in 2011, arguing that county boards of adjustment do not have that power under state law and that the permit should be ruled void.
The other case was an appeal of the Board of Adjustment’s denial of a tribal petition to stop construction of Osage Wind, which has begun bulldozing the prairie as it prepares to erect turbines.
A third case remains active in Osage County District Court, though Haney appeared anxious to make quick work of it. In that case, a second wind farm, Mustang Run, is appealing the Board of Adjustment’s May 8 decision to deny it a permit to build a wind farm consisting of about 68 turbines next to Osage Wind.
The Osage County Commissioners and Board of Adjustment are the defendants in all three cases.
Mustang Run and Osage Wind started out as separately owned wind farms, but they are now both owned by Enel SpA, the Italian utility giant. In court pleadings, the company says it has irrevocably committed $225 million to the projects.
Objections to the wind projects are mostly environmental, centering on the area being one of the last shreds of tallgrass prairie that has never been plowed or fragmented.
Haney said the Osage case demanding that the 2011 wind farm permit be declared void should have been brought earlier as part of a federal lawsuit the tribe filed that year in which it claimed the wind farms would interfere with oil extraction. The Osage Nation owns all mineral rights in Osage.
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