Oklahoma Senate Passes Bill Giving State More Authority to Regulate Wind Farms

  • Joe Wertz
Oklahoma Wind Turbine

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is a major wind-energy state, but some landowners and communities have turned their backs on turbines.

Some oppose wind farms for purely aesthetic reasons, or because they feel fields of turbines will hurt their property value. Turbine noise and “shadow flicker” are big complaints, too, and some people have raised safety questions about ice being thrown from turbine blades, and how the turbines would fare in severe weather.

In Oklahoma, the fight for and against wind farms has been waged at the municipal and county level because the state has little regulatory authority. But that could change, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

Senate Bill 1559, by Sen. Cliff Branan, R-Oklahoma City, and SB 1276, by Sen. Charles Wyrick, D-Fairland, would strengthen an existing law that requires wind developers to pay for decommissioning projects. The bills forbid wind turbines within a quarter-mile of houses unless the owner gives consent. They also set up a process at the Department of Environmental Quality to regulate noise from wind turbines.

On Thursday, SB 1559 passed the Senate Energy Committee, the paper reports:

Branan, the committee’s chairman, said the bill gives more local control to counties to be involved in permitting for wind developments, implements setbacks from homes and regulates noise from wind turbines. It also requires developers to post a $25,000 bond for each turbine to be redeemed when wind farms are decommissioned.

The committee heard from Calumet resident Tammy Huffstutlar, a vocal opponent of the Canadian Hills Wind Farm. In a September 2013 interview with StateImpact, Huffstutlar said the wind farm turned her quiet farm into an industrial park.

Piedmont was home to one of the state’s most contentious wind-energy fights, but another tussle is brewing in Northeastern Oklahoma, near the town of Cetralia, Monies reports:

EDP Renewables North America wants to build a 59-turbine development near Centralia in western Craig County. The project is still in the planning stages, but it’s drawn opposition from several nearby landowners, including one whose family owns a 15,000-acre ranch.

But as Monies reports, the wind-energy industry is cautioning against legislation that might stifle development.

Vicki Ayres-McCune, executive director of the Panhandle Regional Economic Development Coalition, said SB 1559 could affect future wind farms planned for the Panhandle. She pointed to a proposed high-voltage, direct-current electric transmission project by Clean Line Energy Partners LLC that would take electricity from the Panhandle to utilities in Tennessee and the southeastern United States.

“I just want to encourage you, as you assess this policy, to make sure you don’t hinder development that will come to our state,” Ayres-McCune said. “Quite honestly, the transmission that is slated to go in the Panhandle, the wind farms could be developed in another state, and Oklahoma would lose out because of our policy.”