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Piedmont City Council approves lawsuit against wind companies

The Piedmont City Council voted Monday night to take "legal action" against developers trying to build a windfarm near the fast-growing city in Canadian County, the latest development in a fight that has already resulted in the ouster of one elected official.
by Andrew Knittle and Paul Monies Modified: August 27, 2013 at 9:17 pm •  Published: August 27, 2013

“We need some protections from the risks,” Suttles said. “I don't believe these wind farms were ever intended to be next to cities. Piedmont is one of the fastest-growing, thriving cities in the state. Why would you want to risk that?”

Suttles said her group isn't anti-wind and sees the value in wind projects in other parts of the state. But she said most people wouldn't want a wind turbine in their backyard, just like they wouldn't want a coal mine in their backyard.

Apex representatives said they've worked to make sure there are setbacks of at least 1,500 feet from all residences and an average setback of 3,200 feet from the houses of nonparticipating landowners.

Jeff Clark, executive director of The Wind Coalition, a trade association, said the wind-related concerns listed in the city ordinance were inaccurate or had been debunked. He said it was unfortunate the city council based their opposition on what he called “junk science.”

“It is a very creative way for a very small group of people to try to drive an agenda, and it's built entirely on junk science,” Clark said. “I cannot fathom how they think they can impose their will on a three-mile radius from the city. They are doing a disservice to the people who elected them.”

Deannexation, recall election

It isn't the first time some Piedmont residents have been split on the effects of nearby wind farms. In January, the council postponed action on a deannexation proposal from some city residents who had leased their land to wind developers.

The ongoing, public fight also led to the ouster of former Piedmont councilman Vernon Woods, who lost handily in an Aug. 13 recall election.

Before Monday's vote to approve legal action against the wind farm, Bobby Williamson, the man who beat Woods in the recall election, was sworn in as the Ward 2 councilman.

The recall election came after Woods angered a local group who accused of him of holding backroom meetings with representatives from Apex after city officials decided not to allow the massive turbines to be erected within Piedmont city limits earlier this year.

Woods never denied that he continued to meet with the company, but he claimed he did so because some residents of northern Piedmont were interested in having the turbines on their property.

Apex developed the nearby Canadian Hills wind farm west of Oklahoma City. The 300-megawatt farm is now owned by Boston-based Atlantic Power Corp. and has 136 turbines, including 15 inside the city limits of El Reno.

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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