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Oklahoma bill setting new wind farm restrictions advances

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill by Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, to place new restrictions on the growing wind industry in Oklahoma has passed a House committee.

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 11-2 on Tuesday for House Bill 1549, which would restrict how close giant wind turbines can be built near airports, hospitals and schools, and to require wind energy producers to notify nearby property owners before construction. The bill also requires a public hearing to be held prior to a wind turbine being installed.

“I am pleased that the bill passed the committee,” Sears told the Examiner-Enterprise on Wednesday. “This version of the bill will make sure that these large, tall – and sometimes loud – wind turbines are 1½ miles away from airports, schools and hospitals. I don’t think our school children want to hear a humming noise while they are trying to learn, and the safety of the aviation industry is also extremely important when coming in to our state’s airports.”

The original version of the bill initially imposed setback restrictions limiting how close the turbines could be erected to homes, city limits and oil production facilities. Sears removed that language in the version approved by the committee.

“Prior to being sent to the committee, I had extensive negotiations with the wind power industry and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau,” Sears said. “Basically, the wind power industry already has these setbacks when they are establishing new wind power facilities. The Farm Bureau said their members don’t want additional property restrictions set up by the government. After those negotiations, I removed the language.”

State Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, sits on the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee and voted in favor of the bill. The two “No” votes were by Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, and Rep. Tommy Hardin, R-Madill.

Sears also authored House Bill 1554, which would reduce tax incentives for the wind industry. That bill passed the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, chaired by Sears, by a vote of 17-7 on Feb. 18.

Both bills now head to the full Oklahoma House of Representatives for consideration.

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