The Osage Minerals Council is pushing back against an attempt by a Chicago-based energy company to set up a wind farm in Osage County.
On April 18, the council approved a resolution authorizing an appeal of a conditional use permit approved the week before by the Osage County Board of Adjustment for a proposed wind farm near Grainola.
As worded, the resolution does not stipulate whether the appeal will be filed through state, tribal or federal court.
Approved on April 12 by a 3-1 margin, the proposed project, known as Silver Spoke, would have up to 64 turbines on generating an estimated 158.6 megawatts of energy. Construction is scheduled to start in late 2019 and the project would come online in 2020.
Before casting the lone no vote, board member Rick Hedrick said the board was simply trying to balance the interests of the county and acknowledged that their decision could be overturned in court.
“This is the third one we’ve considered,” he said. “In my mind, a lot of the issues are the same. The difference has been the location. Everything else has been about the same.”
According to Invenergy, the company attempting to build the wind farm, Silver Spoke is slated to create between 200-300 construction jobs and up to eight full-time maintenance jobs once the turbines are online. Osage County would receive $18 million in property taxes over the lifetime of the project and landowners are projected to receive about $44 million.
A power purchase agreement is already in place with Associated Electric Cooperative Inc., for the energy generated from the proposed project.
AECI works with six regional generation and transmission cooperatives that in turn serve 51 smaller cooperatives across northeastern Oklahoma, Missouri and southern Iowa, including Indian Electric Cooperative in Cleveland, Okla., which has more than 3,400 customers in Osage County.
Members of the Board of Adjustment were unable to answer questions about how the project would impact the Osage Nation’s mineral estate, much to the chagrin of several council members.
“It shows to me that they’re not willing to talk to us at this point,” Councilwoman Cynthia Boone said.
Under federal statute, any mining activity conducted in Osage County requires a permit from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In fall 2017, the 10th Circuit Court sided with the Osage Minerals Council that the definition of “mining” includes digging up, crushing and replacing rocks. A Supreme Court challenge to that ruling is still pending.
When pressed by council members, Osage Agency Superintendent Robin Phillips said that her office was not appraised of the project prior to the Board of Adjustment’s vote but would be sending inspectors out to the area soon.
Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear was not at the Board of Adjustment meeting and authorized the tribe’s director of strategic planning and self-governance, Candy Thomas, to read into the record a 2017 column written by the chief explaining the tribe’s opposition to wind operations in Osage County.
At the April 17 Osage Minerals Council meeting, Chief Standing Bear reiterated his opposition to wind energy projects in Osage County and put his support behind the minerals council.
“Our police department stands ready to carry out any lawful orders from the tribal court for you,” he said.
“We will follow your lead. We support what you’ve done.”
Original Publish Date: 2018-04-23 00:00:00