Osage Nation fights wind power initiate to the dissaproval of county residents
By Hallie Sacks
WASHINGTON—As Osage member Chris White begins an hour-long drive to Tulsa, he looks across the flat prairie at a plot of land just north of U.S. 60. In the distance he sees the mid-morning sun highlighting the tall grass tips. It's a sight, he worries, whose days may be numbered.
His tribe, which won this land in buffalo wars and fought to regain it after government relocation, again finds itself in a custody battle. This time, however, the fight is over resources hidden below the surface.
Although non-native residents own property on the reservation, Osage members claim ownership over the oil and natural gas reserves underneath the land. And those reserves will, according to the Osage, be harmed by a proposed wind farm that many residents are eager to welcome to the county.
“The plans are on a small parcel of land but it is in the heart,” says White, the Osage Nation’s
executive director of governmental affairs. “This is going to have an adverse impact on the Osage Nation’s right to further development of minerals.”
The Wind Capital Group, whose project gained approval from landowners and the Osage County board in August, have plans to begin installing a 94-turbine wind farm in the prairie land before the year is done.
After months of speaking out against the wind farm, including threats of legal action from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Osage tribal nation filed a lawsuit against the Midwestern company in October. The trial is set to begin Dec.14.
This lawsuit deepens the rift between the tribe and the non-native residents of Osage County who argue tax revenue from the wind farm would be lucrative for local business and provide money for underfunded schools.
The proposed construction of 94 turbines is projected to bring more than $500,000 in revenue to the landowners in Osage County and could provide over $1 million per year to the state in property taxes. The construction and maintenance of the wind turbines would also increase local employment, according to Scott Greene, the principal investigator for the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative.