Lawsuit aims to halt wind project

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

TULSA — Federal officials acting on behalf of the Osage Nation are attempting to halt the development of Osage County’s second wind energy project.

In a lawsuit filed Aug. 17, the U.S. Attorney’s office seeks to prevent developers of the Mustang Run Wind Project, a proposed 136-megawatt facility proposed west of Pawhuska. The 68-turbine wind farm is to be located adjacent to the Osage Wind operation which was completed in June.

The complaint by Assistant U.S. Attorney Catharyn D. McClanahan asks for temporary and permanent injunctions against construction of Mustang Run, a proposed 68-turbine facility which would cover approximately 9,000 acres some 12 to 15 miles west of Pawhuska. Mustang Run would be built on leased, privately-owned prairie land adjacent to U.S. Highway 60 and alongside the 150-megawatt, 84-turbine Osage Wind facility.

Defendants in the action include Lenexa, Kan.-based Tradewind Energy, the developer-of-record for Mustang Run, and Enel Green Power North America, which operates the Osage Wind project.

In May 2014, the Osage County Board of Adjustment voted to deny a conditional-use permit TradeWind Energy needed to begin construction. Six months later, however, a district court judge ordered the board to grant the permit and an appeal of that ruling is currently pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

This latest legal action alleges Osage Wind developers violated federal law by disregarding instructions by the superintendent of the Osage Agency, who called for the developers to discontinue construction at the site until it obtained a mining permit from the Osage Minerals Council.

Tribal officials claim excavations at the Osage Wind site constitute mining as defined by federal laws. The wind project developer completed construction of the facility without obtaining the permit.

Officials for Enel argued that no mining was involved in the excavations. They claim limestone at the site was removed, crushed and re-used as fill around the turbine bases.

Thus far, no hearing date has been scheduled on the government’s complaint.

Earlier this summer, TradeWind officials announced the company’s intention to proceed with construction of Mustang Run — which they are hoping to have completed by the end of the year.