Judge rules in favor of area wind project

Judge rules in favor of area wind project

A district court judge has ordered an Osage County regulatory board to grant a permit allowing for construction of a second wind energy development west of Pawhuska.

Mustang Run Wind Project was denied a conditional use permit May 8 by the Osage County Board of Adjustment following a public hearing at which there had been considerable opposition to Mustang Run and another wind farm, Osage Wind, which had previously been approved for a permit.

The board’s decision to deny the Mustang Run permit was appealed in Osage County District Court by TradeWind Energy — a Lenexa, Kan.-based company that owns both of the projects, which are to be built 15 to 20 miles west of Pawhuska along U.S. Highway 60 and State Highway 18/11.

In their refusal to grant approval for the project, board members cited a desire to preserve the unique prairie landscape on which the project was to be located. Other arguments raised at the hearing involved alleged negative effects the wind-turbine developments would have on adjacent property values and the possible endangerment of wildlife — including eagles and prairie chickens. The Pawhuska-based Osage Nation argued that construction of the wind projects posed threats to tribal mineral interests and burial sites.

In an order filed Wednesday in Osage County District Court by District Judge Robert Haney ruled that arguments presented in opposition to the wind farm were “speculative” and without merit. Haney, from Miami, was assigned to the case following the recusal by District Judge John Kane of Pawhuska, whose family owns property which is being leased in connection with at least one of the projects.

The Ottawa County judge said he did not believe the wind farms negatively effect property values “as the property in this area is primarily cattle and/or horses.” As for the impact of the developments on the viewshed, Haney said that would be negligible compared to that of the oil tanks and drilling rigs already present in the area.

“The best that the court can determine is the board did not think that a wind farm fits within their ‘vision’ for Osage County and/or for adjacent land owners,” Haney stated, adding that the benefits the county and its residents will derive from tax monies and lease payments provides a “plus side” to the proposition.

Haney previously had turned down two requests for injunctions that would have halted work on the Osage Wind project, which is now under construction.