November 19, 2014

Wind farm opponents gather in Pawhuska

Mike Erwin | Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise | November 19, 2014 |

PAWHUSKA – Just hours after the first industrial wind turbine was completed Monday in western Osage County, opponents of two area wind-energy developments vowed to continue their efforts to halt construction of the projects.

Speakers offered insights into dangers they claim wind farms will pose for the prairie lands west of Pawhuska where the projects are being constructed by TradeWind Energy, a Lenexa, Kan.-based branch of an international energy corporation.

Personal, and sometimes graphic, information about alleged dangers posed by the 400-foot wind turbines was shared during a two-hour seminar. More than 60 citizens attended the public meeting, which was held from 6-8 p.m. at the Constantine Theater. The event was sponsored by Protect Osage Coalition.

Threats posed to wildlife – in particular, the bald eagles and prairie chickens of the area – received special attention. Evidence about negative effects the wind farms have on people and the environment was presented via speakers and film.

Among the guest speakers were Bob Hamilton from Osage County’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and Don Wolfe of the Sutton Avian near Bartlesville. Wolfe explained the complex dangers that towers and transmission lines pose to raptors and nesting birds. Hamilton called the location of the wind farms created conflicts and negative impact possiblities that should be avoided.

“To have this (wind farm) project where it’s at is completely inappropriate,” Hamilton said.

Rick Mosier of the OK Property Rights Association told of possible crippling effects that subsidies to the wind power industry could have on the state economy and the financial well-being of school districts where the wind farms are located.

“Regardless of what they might say, the wind industry will not contribute anything to our schools,”said Mosier, a longtime member of a Rogers County school board.

Mosier said the wind industry is totally unregulated in Oklahoma, but called the state’s wind energy tax credits “the greatest in the nation.”

“And, I’ll guarantee there are 13 registered wind-energy lobbyists walking the halls at the Capitol today,” Mosier added.

Canadian County resident Tammy Huffstutlar spoke about how turbines placed on her neighbors’ property has caused a marked reduction in the quality of life for her and her family.

One of the citizens who spoke at the meeting said the Osage Nation should unite and make a stand against the wind-farm threat. Another said it was time to “take up the tomahawk” to stop wind development in Osage County.

Osage attorney Wilson Pipestem admitted that wind energy “is a good thing, but we believe this is the wrong site,” he said.

“We have a long way to go before this is going to over,” said Pipestem.

Rotor blades were installed Monday on the first turbine to be completed at the Osage Wind energy project site 20 miles west of Pawhuska.

Over the past week, approximately a dozen of the 400-foot steel towers have been erected for the wind farm – a proposed 150-megawatt facility that is to include 94 turbines. TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kan., is developing the controversial project on nearly 10,000 acres of leased prairie land located along U.S. Highway 60 near Burbank.

Preliminary work started earlier this year at the site, which was approved for a wind farm in 2011. Construction has been slowed partly because of a transfer of the project’s ownership from the original company (Wind Capital Group) to TradeWind. Additional delays have resulted from litigation brought by the Osage Nation – which has spearheaded opposition to the wind farm based mainly on environmental concerns.

Last week, a district court judge ordered an Osage County regulatory board to grant a permit allowing for construction of a second TradeWind Energy development, Mustang Run Wind Project, which is to be built on property that adjoins the Osage Wind project.

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