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Residents File Class-Action Lawsuit to Block Wind Turbines Near Kingfisher

  • Joe Wertz

Seven landowners filed a class-action lawsuit this week to prevent wind turbines from being built near their homes in Canadian and Kingfisher counties.

In the complaint, which is embedded above, the landowners claim that planned wind farm projects controlled by Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy would create a nuisance, devalue their property and adversely affect their health.

An organization that opposes wind projects in the two counties, the Oklahoma Wind Action Association, brought the lawsuit on behalf of the landowners. The suit was filed Aug. 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

The landowners who brought the lawsuit all live within three miles of the planned wind farm, and, in many cases, own property within the “no-build” zone of the planned locations of the 500-foot-tall turbines. From the complaint, with bullets added for readability:

  • … Industrial Wind Turbine manufacturers recommend a minimum setback or safety zone of three (3) times turbine height—in this case fifteen hundred (1500) feet—between any home and an Industrial Wind Turbine for safety purposes in case of catastrophic failure of one or more components, not to protect against adverse effects resulting from noise.
  • As a result, Industrial Wind Turbines, by their own safety standards, create a de facto “no-build” zone in a fifteen hundred (1500) radius surrounding the Turbine. In many instances, this “no-build” zone overlaps with the property of landowners who have no agreement with Defendants.
  • This invasion of Plaintiffs’ right to use and enjoy their property requires Defendants to obtain an easement from the landowner that restricts their ability to construct upon any property within the fifteen hundred (1500) feet of the Industrial Wind Turbine. Otherwise, Defendants’ Industrial Wind Turbines will interfere with Plaintiffs’ ability to use their property as they wish safely.
  • Defendants have undertaken no effort to obtain such easements and Plaintiffs will be left with a cloud upon their titles.

The wind energy industry is booming in Oklahoma, which was the country’s fourth-largest wind-power producer in 2013. But there has been consierable resistance to some wind farm projects, including the Apex projects planned for Canadian and Kingfisher counties.

In December 2013, officials in the nearby city of Piedmont approved an agreement with Apex to settle a heated, year-long fight to block wind farm construction near the city. Officials in Kingfisher, too, are negotioating with Apex on a similar setback agreement, according to the lawsuit.

On Sept. 11, the Oklahoma Corporation will hold its first public meeting to discuss potential statewide rules for the wind energy industry, an action requested by Sen. President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, which was spurred by vocal opposition to proposed wind farm projects in Osage and Craig counties.

Kent Dougherty, Director of Development at Apex, declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit, but said the company has a “proven track record” in addressing community concerns.

“Numerous third-party studies on the impact of wind turbines on both health and property values repeatedly demonstrate that there are no measurable impacts,” he tells StateImpact in a written statement.

Updated 08/27/2014 with comments from Apex Clean Energy.