The U.S. government is asking a federal judge to stop construction of a wind project near Pawhuska, where construction is allegedly removing or destroying rocks that belong to the Osage Nation.
The U.S. Department of Interior wants a court order to halt construction immediately, and prevent any further construction until the wind farm obtains a permit to remove the rock – a permit that the tribe would likely want to deny.
The tribe, which owns all mineral rights in Osage County, complained in September that crews were digging out and crushing rock to build foundations for several 400-foot turbines west of Pawhuska.
And in response, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs sent a letter Oct. 9 to the project’s owner, Enel Green Power North America, demanding that construction stop.
Work has continued, however, and Enel has insisted that it had all the necessary permits to build as many as 93 turbines across more than 8,000 acres.
Friday’s lawsuit, filed late in the afternoon in federal district court in Tulsa, called the construction “unlawful.”
Each wind-turbine foundation requires a pit 60 feet wide and 30 feet deep, excavating limestone, sandy soil and other minerals that rightfully belong to the tribe, according to the lawsuit. Building all of the turbine foundations would involve excavating more than 60,000 cubic yards of minerals, the lawsuit says.
Congress gave the mineral rights to the tribe in 1906 and restricted use of the surface to activities “normally associated with homesteading, farming, and grazing,” according to the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Enel recently won a separate lawsuit in Oklahoma district court, where a judge ordered Osage County to approve a second wind farm adjacent to the one already under construction.
The county Board of Adjustment refused the permit earlier this year, after residents complained that the wind developments were creating an eyesore. It’s not clear how Monday’s federal lawsuit might affect the second development, which is called Mustang Run.
Combined, the two wind farms would include more than 150 turbines across roughly 17,000 acres west and northwest of Pawhuska, much of it visible from scenic highway U.S. 60.
The first wind turbine was completed this week, and the $287 million Osage Wind project is scheduled to begin producing energy by June.
Enel officials did not respond to requests for comments. The Osage Nation also didn’t comment Friday.
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