Osage County Ranchers Fight Wind Farm Development

Tuesday, September 6th 2011, 6:26 pm
By: News On 6

Tara Vreeland, News On 6

OSAGE COUNTY, Oklahoma -- Ranchers in Osage County are fighting wind farm development in the county.

The ranchers agree with Osage Nation that the energy churning giants will cause irreparable damage to the environment.

Both Osage Nation and local ranchers say they don't oppose green energy. But building wind farms in the county will do more harm than good.

The sprawling land of Osage County is home to oil fields and cattle ranches. Old industries are being threatened by new technology.

Wind Capital Group wants to put up nearly 100 wind turbines in the county.

"The people that are going to put them in are not from this area.... like the ranchers who have been out there as long as I've been on this earth," said Chief John D. Red Eagle, Principal Chief of Osage Nation.

Jason Reed's family has been ranching for more than a century. He says the impact the wind farm will have a devastating impact on the tall grass prairie.

"The way I was raised, we do the best we can to preserve what God has created," Reed said.

Reed says the turbines will prevent aerial spraying of noxious weeds like sericea lespedeza.

"It's a terrible noxious weed that's come into this country. It's going to take over the grasslands. I know down here for us if we're not able to try and control it," Reed said.

Reed says the serene blades pose a risk to wildlife in the area. Other concerns include a maze of roads, deep foundations and miles of trenches and lines.

Osage Nation says the possibility of malfunctioning turbines could lead to fires.

"We're not against wind energy. It's where they are putting them that we are against because it's an oil producing area and a cattle producing area," said Chief Red Eagle.

"I just think it's not the best thing for the community or the area. We will lose those grasslands," Reed said.

Ranchers say the landowners are swayed by tax dollars and federal tax incentives. They say if it wasn't for the money the turbines wouldn't ever go up.

"I think sometimes money might not be the answer," Reed said.

Chief Red Eagle says the county should have asked the tribe for permission before moving forward with the project.

The Osage tribe's Mineral Council has hired an attorney to represent them.

Chief Red Eagle says they will file and injunction in the next few days to try and stop the wind farms.

Wind Capital Group issued the following statement in response:

"At Wind Capital Group we are proud of our track record of being strong partners with the communities in which we work, and we look forward to developing a positive, long-term relationship with the people of Osage County as we move forward with the Osage County Wind Energy Facility. 

"The issues raised in this letter have been brought forward many times before, and we are very pleased that, having thoroughly reviewed these arguments, the County Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to approve the Osage County Wind Project.

"We take all issues raised very seriously, and we are committed to working with the Osage County community, landowners, environmental leaders, and others to ensure that we meet and exceed all state and federal agency standards on this project."

In a news release, the Group said that according to a 2009 study funded by the US Department of Energy, there is no widespread impact of wind power projects on surrounding property values.

They also said that wind turbines do not impact aerial spraying and that wind energy is the safest form of energy generation.