Like the 84 wind towers that still stand throughout Osage County, the issue of a federal judge’s ruling late last year to force Enel Green to remove every one of them at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars is up in the air.
An appeal of the December 2023 ruling by U.S. Court of International Trade Judge Jennifer Choe-Groves in Tulsa is anticipated and Enel Green recently admitted as much.
“Osage Wind will seek appellate review of the decision in due time, consistent with its legal rights,” a spokesman for Enel Green told OK Energy Today. The judge, in her decision, ruled Enel illegally mined rock owned by the Osage Nation, which comprises all of Osage County, crushed the rock and used it as a base for the wind turbines.
The company takes issue on the basis for the ruling.
“Osage Wind never intended to mine minerals owned by the Osage Nation nor impose on their sovereignty and acted in the genuine belief that its actions were consistent with applicable legal requirements,” stated the company in an email to OK Energy Today.
“Osage Wind operates to the benefit of the local community. It provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for Osage area schools every year. Furthermore, farmers, ranchers and other Osage Wind landowners benefit from the rents accrued by leasing their private property as part of the project, and the region benefits from clean, renewable power for 50,000 homes.”
The Enel Green spokesman contended a forced removal of the turbines would not only be costly, an estimated $300 million loss, but would adversely impact the benefits of the wind farm to the local community.
“Enel and its Osage Wind project respect the judicial process regarding Osage Wind, and while it disagrees with the decision of the Federal District Court of Oklahoma issued on December 20, it will continue to act in good faith to operate the project in accordance with the law until the outcome of this matter is finally determined.”
The legal fight over the wind farm and the 8,400 acres where they were built nearly a decade ago has been carried out in the courts for years. Indeed, the battle started in 2011 when the Osage tribe challenged Enel Green, making it the longest-running legal fight over wind energy in the U.S.
The ruling by International Trade Judge Choe-Groves wasn’t the first setback for Enel Green, an international company with roots in Rome, Italy. In 2021, as reported by OK Energy Today, Tulsa U.S. District Court Judge Gregory K. Frizzell issued a similar ruling, deciding that the construction of the wind farm constituted “mining” which would have required a lease approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
The ruling came in a legal challenge by the Osage Minerals Council which took the original case to the 10th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017.