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Docuseries about wind farm fight screens in Grayhorse

A new docuseries, critical of wind energy and the current power grid by Robert Bryce, featured Osages in their decades-long fight over wind turbines.

Osage citizens and community members gathered on a cold and windy Friday, Feb. 16 for a free screening, dinner and celebration for the win in the wind turbine case at the community center in Grayhorse.

Filmmaker and author Robert Bryce, along with director and producer Tyson Culver, screened an episode of their new series “Juice: Power, Politics and the Grid” for Osages

Last December, the U.S. government and the Osage Minerals Council scored a major victory when federal judge Jennifer Choe-Groves ordered Osage Wind LLC, Enel Green Power North America and Enel Kansas to remove the wind turbines located north of Pawhuska near Shidler. The Osage Minerals Council has been battling the companies for more than a decade. Choe-Groves reinforced an earlier 10th circuit decision saying the company failed to get the necessary permit before drilling and putting up the turbines.

As people enjoyed beef stew, sausage links, fry bread and cupcakes, Robert Bryce, a filmmaker and author of several books critiquing green energy, screened part three of his series Juice: Power, Politics and the Grid. The 20-minute episode features several Osages, including Tommy Daniels, Billie Ponca, Scott Lohah and the late Joe Conner, describing the tribal nation’s fight against the wind turbines.

Conner, who led an information campaign against the wind companies, said in his interview that Osage citizens weren’t against wind energy and recognize there is a climate crisis, but says the way in which the companies conducted themselves by refusing to get a permit, was something he and the Osage Nation objected to.

“We do know that other tribes, in the western part of the state, have invited wind farms onto their reservation,” Conner said in the documentary.

“We don’t object to that because those companies dealt with the tribe as a partner – our point is about our right as a sovereign nation to exercise control over our property,” Conner said.

Contractors work on the base of a wind turbine in 2014, within the Osage Mineral Estate. Osage News File Photo

In his interview for the series, which was conducted before the December decision, Tommy Daniels said with a laugh that if he had the power, “boom, they’d be gone!”

“They just ran right over us,” Danette Daniels explained to Bryce.

Carol Conner, one of the organizers of the event, told audience members that this was a huge hard-fought victory. She remembered how her late husband Joe Conner, Osage Congressman John Maker and Scott Lohah attended many meetings since the announcement of a wind farm in 2009.

“And in every meeting they said, ‘Oh, you know, if you’re going to drill into the Osage Minerals estate, you’re going to have to get a lease from the tribe.’ And at every turn, the people from Enel and Osage Wind said, we don’t need to do that. And at every turn, every Osage said, yes, you do.”

Congressman John Maker sponsored the Eagle Protection Act in 2015, which he said would protect the sacred bird.

“I worked with the Minerals Council on that legislation because we were trying to think of anything we could to stop this construction,” Maker explained.

Maker said the wind companies thought they could come in and do whatever they wanted. Last year’s ruling, he said proved them wrong.

Bryce describes himself as an energy industry expert who has penned several books about the subject.

He says his passion is to spotlight affordable energy: “Spotlighting the essentiality of affordable energy and power to modern society is my purpose and my passion. I am particularly focused on electricity and electric grids.”

Eighty-four wind turbines have been ordered to be removed from the Osage Mineral Estate after a 12-year legal battle. Osage News File Photo

Bryce is critical of renewable energy sources citing them as expensive and out of reach for the average American. In his latest five-part docuseries, he begins with the 2021 storm that slammed the state of Texas, knocking out power for millions of households and causing more than 200 deaths. He ends the series touting the possibility of nuclear energy to help solve some of the problems facing the electric grid.

Bryce says he’s been following the case against the wind farm companies in Osage County for the last few years.

“To me, it was just such an incredible story, right, that the arrogance of this company to come into Osage land and ignore the tribe and clearly violate the tribe’s sovereignty,” Bryce told Osage News.

Bryce said he was very pleased with Judge Choe-Groves ruling last December against the three wind companies.

“It’s a landmark ruling, an incredibly important win, for the tribe and for Native American sovereignty,” Bryce said.

Tyson Culver, the director and producer of the series, told Osage News, he wanted to create something that people from both sides of the aisle could watch and give them a better understanding of the issue and educate them about the issues Osages faced during their more than decade-long fight against the wind farm.

“We thought it was a great opportunity for us to share a story that other folks might not know about,” Culver said.

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Allison Herrera
Allison Herrerahttps://osagenews.org
Title: Freelance Reporter
Email: aherrera@osagenation-nsn.gov
Languages spoken: English

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs Desk.

Herrera recently worked on Bloomberg and iHeart Media's In Trust with Rachel Adams-Heard, an investigative podcast about Osage Headrights.

She currently works for KOSU as their Indigenous Affairs Reporter. Herrera’s Native ties are from her Xolon Salinan tribal heritage.

In her free time, she likes buying fancy earrings, running and spending time with her daughter.

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