Tulsa federal judge orders removal of wind farm from Osage Nation
A Tulsa federal judge has ordered the removal of wind turbines on Osage Nation land.
U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer Choe-Graves ruled Dec. 20 that Italian green energy company Enel must dismantle its 150-megawatt wind farm in Osage County.
This ruling comes after a 12-year long legal dispute that centered around the Osage Allotment Act of 1906, which grants the tribe ownership of mineral rights.
Enel faced allegations of illegally mining rock owned by the Osage Nation during the wind project's construction. Despite orders from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to cease mining activities, Enel not only continued but accelerated construction.
The court has ordered Enel to remove 84 wind turbines built on 8,400 acres of the Tallgrass Prairie located between Pawhuska and Fairfax. The removal process is estimated to cost the company $300 million.
This marks just the third instance nationwide where a judge has mandated the dismantling and removal of wind turbines and a first for Oklahoma.
Choe-Graves concluded that Enel "failed to acquire a mining lease during or after construction, as well as after issuance of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision holding that a mining lease was required" in 2017. She continued saying that the company's "past and continued refusal to obtain a lease constitutes interference with the sovereignty of the Osage Nation and is sufficient to constitute irreparable injury."
The ruling sets a precedent for future cases involving Indigenous land rights and resource extraction.
"This is a win not only for the Osage Minerals Council; this is a win for Indian Country," Osage Minerals Council Chairman Everett Waller said in an interview with the Tulsa World.
"There are a lot of smaller tribes that couldn’t have battled this long, but that's why we’re Osages," Waller told the newspaper. "We're here, and this is our homeland, and we are going to protect it at all costs."
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