Okla. tribe says wind farm doesn't trump its oil, gas rights

Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 26, 2011, 12:19pm

TULSA, Okla. (Legal Newsline) - A federally recognized Native American tribe in Oklahoma is asking a U.S. district court to prohibit a group of companies from proceeding with construction of a wind farm on its oil and natural gas-rich land.

The Osage Nation filed its request for declaratory and injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma on Oct. 18.

The named defendants are Wind Capital Group LLC, Osage Wind LLC and Wind Capital Investment Management LLC.

The Osage Nation, which has about 15,600 members, owns a mineral estate in Osage County.

The tribe, which says the revenues generated from the estate are some citizens' "sole source" of income, notes it has already entered into lease agreements with certain energy companies for the purpose of exploring and developing the land.

However, the defendants' wind farm project could change all of that, it says.

The companies are proposing to construct -- and have already taken "significant and affirmative steps" toward constructing, the tribe notes -- an industrial network of wind turbines, high voltage underground electric transmission lines, met towers, a substation, roads and storage yards on the tribe's mineral estate.

In particular, 94 wind turbines, each about 400 feet in height, will be constructed on the tribe's land. Each of which will require "extensive digging" to construct deep pits containing concrete foundations, the tribe says.

The defendants' construction and operation of the wind farm, the tribe argues in its 11-page complaint, will illegally interfere with the construction, operation and maintenance of flow lines and transmission lines "to the detriment" of the Osage Nation's mineral estate.

It is asking that the court direct the companies not to proceed with its project due to the "unreasonable interference" with the tribe's right to develop and operate its mineral estate.

The tribe is also asking that the defendants be enjoined from taking any actions "designed to construct or operate" the wind farm or engage in any "surface activities" that interfere with the tribe's mineral rights.

The tribe also wants the court to declare that the wind farm's construction on the land above its mineral estate will interfere with its access to the mineral estate and that the project violates federal law.

In addition, the tribe is seeking attorney fees and costs.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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