MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

March 16, 2014

Legislation to restrict wind farms progresses under fire

Projects east of I-35 would be stalled three years

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Critics of legislation proposing a moratorium on wind farms in Oklahoma east of Interstate 35 say the proposal will have a chilling effect on the new industry, but supporters say it’s necessary because the industry is unregulated and needs more study.

Senate Bill 1440 by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman calls for a three-year halt to development. It passed the Senate last week by a vote of 32-8 and now heads to the House.

Bingman calls the proposal a “work in progress” and says it will be modified, the Tulsa World reported Sunday.

“We have been writing oil and gas legislation and regulations for over 100 years and continue to do so,” said Senate Floor Leader Mike Schulz, R-Altus, who voted against the bill. “I don’t anticipate anything different in the wind industry.”

State Chamber vice president of government affairs Arnella Karges said the bill is already affecting people looking to do wind development.

“It affects their decision as to make new investment. It doesn’t matter if it is east of I-35 or not,” she said.

The State Chamber will soon start trying to convince House leaders that the bill is bad for the state.

“This is one example of the Oklahoma State Legislature changing the game on businesses,” she said.

Claremore businessman Frank Robson, who has a neighbor who wants to put in a wind farm, is leading the charge for the moratorium and regulations. He calls statements about the proposed moratorium’s impact on the industry a “scare tactic.”

Robson said he’s concerned that wind farms will hurt the habitat, impact health and not be attractive to those who chose to live in the country.

Frank Costanza, executive vice president of the Kansas-based Tradewind Energy, which has two wind farms in Oklahoma and other projects in development, said the industry has taken off in Oklahoma because the state has enacted policies that are more supportive of the wind industry than neighboring states.

“We would be very, very adversely impacted financially if Senate Bill 1440 were to pass,” Costanza said, adding that hundreds of land owners benefit from the projects.

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