OKLAHOMA has an abundance of wind, which makes it a great location for firms interested in turning wind into electricity. Oklahoma is also home to the lesser prairie chicken, which can be an impediment to the above endeavor.
Environmentalists would love to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible. The fact that about 85 percent of the nation's energy is now generated by fossil fuels is beside the point. On the other hand, groups such as the Sierra Club make preserving natural habitat one of their top priorities. What's the green energy lobby to do?
After two years of studying the plan up one side and down the other, the State Department gave its OK for the Keystone XL pipeline. But President Barack Obama scuttled it over concerns about how the pipeline might affect environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska. Closer to home, worries about the American burying beetle's habitat have slowed work on the Keystone XL leg from Cushing to the Texas Gulf Coast. Because the beetle is listed as endangered, companies must hire biologists and survey areas for the critters before digging in areas where the beetle might be found.
For the next year, the federal government will conduct a review to determine whether the lesser prairie chicken should be considered “threatened” instead of “endangered.” The former would leave wind-energy companies with fewer hoops to jump through in the permitting process for wind farms. This would be a tremendous benefit for the state's still-fledgling wind industry and those who invest in it. The bird is found across western Oklahoma, where the wind seemingly never stops blowing and which is home to large wind farms.