Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law Monday which will bring an early end to state tax credits for wind-power projects and other zero-emission facilities.
The bill was heartily endorsed by Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, who had actively campaigned for its passage.
“I had spoken with (Bartlesville state Rep.) Earl Sears about it when it was first introduced and have contacted every state legislator I know urging them to pass it,” the Osage Chief said.
The measure moves up the date that zero-emission facilities must be in operation in order to qualify for the tax credit. Wind-energy developers, who formerly had until of 2021 to get turbines online, now are facing a July 1 deadline.
For state officials, the bill is one of several revenue proposals aimed at closing an estimated $868 million budget shortfall.
Standing Bear is looking beyond the economics of the issue.
“The Osage Nation is strongly opposed to the existing wind turbine factory which pollutes our once pristine view of the open prairie and the magnificent sunsets which were unsurpassed in beauty,” Standing Bear stated in a letter he sent to state Rep. Sean Roberts.
He went on to explain how Osages perceive the world through all five human senses.
“To have what we see drastically change from nature to machine is taking away part of our lives,” Standing Bear said. “The economic basis for replacing nature with machine in this case is not beneficial to either the State of Oklahoma or the Osage Nation.”
For the past six years, the Osage Nation has been front and center in opposing Osage County wind-energy developments. There are about 100 turbines operated as part of the Osage Wind project, which went into service in 2015. That number could more than double, however, if two other proposed facilities are constructed.
Standing Bear expects the law to curtail development of the 107-turbine Amshore development in north-central Osage County, as well as another planned by Duke Energy on the west side of the former Osage Reservation. The Chief said he had met with officials from both of those companies to express his opposition to their projects.
“Those guys told me what they were going to do,” Standing Bear said. “And, they assured me it was inevitable.”
During the signing ceremony Monday, the governor reiterated that Oklahoma remains one of America’s energy leaders.
Fallin said the credit was key to growth of Oklahoma’s wind-energy industry, which she thanked for its ambition and its willingness to help the state work through its budget problems. (However, some fiscal analysts have said closing the credit loophole will have no impact on the state’s short-term revenue collections.)
In expressing the ON position on the wind-energy issue, Standing Bear emphasized the tribe supports renewable energy projects, in general. He said, though, that he believes the local wind farms “pose ecologic, economic and historic detriment to their people and residents of Osage County.”
“Our opposition is based on a desire to preserve and restore the prairie ecosystem and to protect it from damage that could be caused by these gigantic machines,” Standing Bear said.
In addition to pointing out possible human health dangers posed by the turbines, he said the wind farms negatively impact the quality of life for Osage County residents.
“Wind farms threaten the way they (Osage residents) have lived their lives for nearly a century,” he said, adding that he considers the projects “an eyesore.”
Standing Bear said the turbines also threaten eagles and other wildlife.
“To the Osage, animals and nature live as one with our people,” the Principal Chief said. “Wind farms exacerbate the life cycle of animals and nature on our sacred land.”
Standing Bear closed by saying “construction and operation of industrial wind turbines detracts from our quality of life and interrupts the native environment of all inhabitants of the Osage Nation.”