PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Future of local wind development uncertain

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  • The announcement that BP plans to sell off its wind energy assets and various wind projects has raised many questions about the future of a proposed wind farm in Pratt County.
    Negotiations for the wind farm recently came to a stop when BP withdrew its Pratt County wind farm application. They now want the County Planning Board to address an issue in the county Commercial Wind Energy Criteria.
    But now that BP is selling its wind energy assets, the future of a wind farm in Pratt County is uncertain.
    The sale of BP wind assets, worth as much as $3.1 billion, is part of their attempt to recover from their oil spill that has a potential price tag of $42 billion and focus on their oil and gas business, according to a story on the www.bloomberg.com web site.
    The story said BP would sell interest in 16 operating farms in nine states as well as sell wind projects in various stages of development.
    Some elements about the impact of the BP wind energy sale on the Pratt County proposed wind farm are known.
    The entity that buys the BP wind energy interests in Pratt County will have to decide what to do with the wind leases, said Rep. Marshall Christmann, whose main source of information came from BP wind division lobbyist Kimberly Svaty.
    Christmann said the leases in Pratt County had no successorship clause that he knew of so the entity that bought the BP interests would have to either renegotiate or honor the current lease agreements before construction could begin on the project.
    Finding a buyer will be the first issue facing BP. With a number of leases already signed in the county, part of the sales pitch is that the plats are "nearly shovel ready," Christmann said.
    A couple of other important lease issues are known at this time.
    Since BP Wind started leasing activity in Pratt County some eight years ago, they have paid more than $1.4 million to land owners in rental agreements. From the information he gathered, no previous payments to lease holders will have to be refunded to BP, said Christmann who was concerned that previous payments might have to be returned.
    During the sale process, BP will continue lease payments. When the BP Wind asset sale is complete, it will be up to the new owner to determine what they want to do with the leases.
    During his conversations with Svaty, Christmann said BP kept echoing that the Pratt project is a good one and BP anticipates the buyer would want to advance the project.
    While many farmers in Pratt County have chosen to participate with the BP Wind project and have signed leases with them, others in the county in the proposed wind farm site are not participating and have many concerns about the project.
    Page 2 of 2 - The future of the project is uncertain for those residents as well.
    "I'm not yet sure what this means for Pratt," said Greg Bacon, member and spokesman for Citizens for Responsible Development, that had a number of concerns about 13 areas left out of the BP application. "We think that's a problem."
    Now that the future of the project is uncertain, Citizens for Responsible Development will have to wait like everyone else until the matter of ownership is resolved. Once that happens and the plan for Pratt County is solidified, Citizens for Responsible Development will have the opportunity to review the plan and determine what concerns they may have.
    Whatever the ownership outcome, Citizens for Responsible Development just wants to make sure that the county protects the rights of the people who don't want to participate, Bacon said.
    The Pratt County Planning Board will have a meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 15 in the Stanion Meeting Room in the basement of Pratt Regional Medical Center.
    As part of their agenda, the Board will consider rewriting one paragraph in the county Commercial Wind Energy Criteria and change it from a one step process to a two-step process as requested by BP.
    No other BP issue is on the agenda at this time, said Tim Branscom, County Planning and Zoning Administrator.
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