A moratorium on wind farms in the eastern half of the state passed Wednesday in the Oklahoma Senate.
Senate Bill 1440, by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, passed 32-8 after no debate.
The bill places a moratorium on new wind farm developments east of Interstate 35 until 2017. It limits the moratorium to those areas where the wind potential is less than fair, according to a 2008 map by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, presented the bill for Bingman. Brinkley said the bill was met “by a little bit of opposition” and is still a work in progress.
“Many of the parties involved are very eager to sit down and have a conversation about this,” Brinkley said. “The pro tem is committed to making sure we get all those voices at the table before we do anything with this legislation.”
The bill was stripped of its title, giving lawmakers more flexibility to make changes. It now heads to the House, where its sponsor is Rep. Earl Sears, R- Bartlesville.
Local property dispute
While the proposed moratorium would affect a large part of eastern Oklahoma, the bill has its roots in a property dispute between large landowners in Craig County, where EDP Renewables North America plans a wind farm.
The Oklahoma Property Rights Association, a group of 50 landowners led by rancher and commercial real estate owner Frank C. Robson, wants some limits on turbine development in northeastern Oklahoma.
Robson said Wednesday he was pleased the bill passed the Senate, although he questioned why EDP Renewables would want to build a wind farm in Craig County.
“I just never have understood why you’d put a wind turbine in an area where there was poor wind,” Robson said. “You don’t mine where there’s no coal, and you don’t drill where there’s no oil.”
New wind data
Curt Roggow, a lobbyist for The Wind Coalition, said the 2008 map referenced in the bill was outdated. Newer wind resource maps show more areas of the state where wind farms could be developed, he said.
“The private sector has been studying wind resources in Oklahoma for a long time, and these maps are continually being updated,” Roggow said.
Roggow called SB 1440 an anti-private property rights bill that interferes with private contracts between wind farm developers and landowners who want to lease their land.
“This is a land dispute in northeastern Oklahoma between two landowners that has been dragged into the state Legislature to settle an argument,” Roggow said. “Oklahoma historically has been very supportive, with 3,000 megawatts of wind already built that is benefiting landowners, consumers and utilities.”
Robson said the wind industry needs some regulation that would protect landowners who don’t want to participate in wind projects. He said some residents also are concerned about the health effects from low-frequency noise from turbines and declining property values.
“You’re not going to let anybody build a cesspool next to your house,” Robson said. “Oil and gas and coal mining all have regulations. Wind is one of the few industries with no protections for landowners.”