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Senate committee passes bill adding regulations to Oklahoma wind farms

The Oklahoma Senate Energy Committee heard from wind development opponents and supporters and moved along legislation that would strengthen existing law for the decommissioning of wind turbines and add permitting requirements at the local level.
by Paul Monies Published: February 13, 2014

The Senate Energy Committee passed a bill Thursday putting additional regulations on wind farms in Oklahoma, but not without hearing from supporters and opponents of a proposed development in northeastern Oklahoma.

The committee approved Senate Bill 1559 by a vote of 12-2. The bill’s author, Sen. Cliff Branan, R-Oklahoma City, stripped the title from the bill, adding flexibility for future changes as it makes its way through the legislative process.

Branan, the committee’s chairman, said the bill gives more local control to counties to be involved in permitting for wind developments, implements setbacks from homes and regulates noise from wind turbines. It also requires developers to post a $25,000 bond for each turbine to be redeemed when wind farms are decommissioned.

“This is sensible regulation, similar to oil and gas,” Branan said. “It’s just smart to be safe.”

Robert Hartley, a Craig County rancher, said a proposed wind farm by EDP Renewables North America would be a good fit for his land. He said the population density is low and the land primarily is used for grazing. Hartley leased about 4,000 acres of the 20,000 acres he owns in Craig County to EDP Renewables.

“I don’t want my neighbor telling me what to do with my property, nor the government, and I’d urge you to vote against this bill,” Hartley told the committee.

His neighbor, Frank C. Robson, has a 15,000-acre ranch near Centralia but doesn’t want any part of the wind farm. Robson organized the Oklahoma Property Rights Association, a group of landowners opposed to the EDP Renewables project in Craig County.

“There is no zoning in Craig County and, as a consequence, with no zoning, the wind farm could be put anyplace,” Robson said. “It could be put next to a house, it could be put next to a property line, and you have absolutely no control over where the placement is.”

Vanessa Tutos, government affairs director for EDP Renewables, said the company has a good track record of working with landowners on proposed projects. She said company representatives have yet to meet in person with Robson and his group.

Tutos said the Craig County project is still in the early stages and has about 80 percent of the land needed under lease. The company won’t announce a construction timeline until it has secured a power purchase agreement with a utility to buy electricity from the wind farm. EDP Renewables also owns and operates the Blue Canyon wind farms in southwest Oklahoma.

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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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