May 2, 2018

Landowners receive letters from law firm representing PSO threatening injunction

By Ryan Miller, Staff Writer | Enid News & Eagle |

Landowners against the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection project on Monday received letters threatening to have an injunction filed against them if they don’t allow officials to do an environmental survey of their properties.

“They’ve sent these letters out from a law firm in Claremore, Oklahoma, which is representing PSO … stating that if we don’t agree to let them survey the property by the 4th of May, they’re going to file an injunction in Garfield County District Court,” said Lee Frisendahl, a sergeant for Enid Police Department and a landowner that would be impacted by Wind Catcher’s 350-mile 765 Kv power line.

Other landowners, part of the “Concerned Citizens of Wind Catcher Project,” group on Facebook posted about receiving similar letters.

The Taylor Foster law firm, in Claremore, is representing Public Service Company of Oklahoma and sent the letters, said Stan Whiteford with PSO.

“(Letters were sent) to landowners along the proposed route that have refused access to the property for environmental surveys, and that’s the point of that letter is we need to do those environmental surveys to keep the project on schedule so that we will be able to get the customer benefits and the customer savings,” Whiteford said. “So that’s what that is all about, to keep the project moving we have to do onsite environmental surveys on each of the properties. So we have about two dozen landowners in total that we’ve sent letters to who have just not allowed us access to this point.”

Wind Catcher Energy Connection, a joint effort between PSO and Southwestern Electric Power Co., is a $4.5 billion project that involves building a wind farm in Oklahoma, a 350-mile power line and two substations.

The wind farm, to be built on 300,000 acres in Cimarron and Texas counties in the Panhandle, will include about 800 2.5 MW wind turbines. A power line will stretch from there to Tulsa, bringing 2,000 megawatts of energy to customers in Eastern and Southwestern Oklahoma, in addition to parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. PSO’s share of the project investment is $1.36 billion.

PSO is still awaiting on a decision from OCC for preapproval of the company’s request to allow PSO to charge ratepayers to help fund the project and recover an anticipated expenditure of the $1.36 billion.

Frisendahl, who said he would be forced to move if the project goes through, said he’s received calls from a number of other landowners who received similar letters who didn’t fully understand what an injunction is and were frightened.

“What we need people to understand is an injunction is simply a procedure that a judge will determine if they have the right to be on your property or not. You’re not in any legal trouble, there’s no fines, there’s nothing that can be done to harm you, it just is the just determine whether you have to allow them on your property or not,” Frisendahl said.

He also clarified that those receiving the mail have the right to negotiate, add or subtract items from the property survey, and they just need to contact the law firm to do so, which is what he and his wife are doing. Frisendahl said the injunction is just for the property survey, and not for building the power lines, which would be separate.

Depending on the property, a survey could include core drilling, cutting down vegetation for survey purposes, checking soil, environmental and historical factors.

Wind Catcher has stirred plenty of both controversy and support since its inception. In February an OCC administrative law judge filed a 136-page recommendation against preapproval of the project. On Feb. 23, PSO filed an exceptions report against the judge’s recommendation.

A number of leaders in Northwest Oklahoma have expressed support for the project, while other leaders and numerous landowners set to have their properties impacted by the power line have voiced concern and opposition.

According to a Feb. 15 SoonerPoll, “75.5 percent of Oklahomans surveyed” support the project. PSO and Walmart reached an agreement on Wind Catcher in March.

Some concerns voiced by those against it include concerns about health, noise and property value loss.

Frisendahl said in a recent medical appointment, his oncologist recommended moving if the project goes through. While he said proof of negative health impacts isn’t rock solid, the statistical links are enough.

“He said if it was his children, there’s absolutely no way he would stay that close,” Frisendahl said. “That’s what we’re faced with if this indeed happens and it’s remotely close to our property, we’re going to have to leave … if there’s .0001 percent chance it would harm my children, I can’t do it.”

Most landowners are being offered about $3,000 an acre for compensation right now, according to Frisendahl, who said he’s talked to a number of landowners that would be impacted by the project.

“How’s this saving anybody money? And it’s still destroying our land and it’s still taking our land by force. Again, I go back to if you’re going to ruin someone’s family and force them to move … I can’t go buy another place and build another place for that. I’m going to lose financially on this deal, and I can’t swallow that,” he said. “If this is going to happen and we can’t win and make them go away, at least treat us fair, at least be kind to those whose lives you are disrupting.”

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