The Pratt County Planning and Zoning Board approved a change to the Pratt County Zoning Ordinance requested and partially at least rewritten by British Petroleum (BP). BP had originally asked the board to consider allowing them to make various studies at a different rate than all at once as required by the adopted ordinance.
Board member Mark Fincham, who supposedly has a lease with BP, disqualified himself from the discussion and action to be taken as he said he had a conflict of interest. Fincham left his seat on the Board and went to sit in the audience receiving a round of applause as he did so.
When informed that he could vote on the change since it was legislation not approving anything for BP, who has formally withdrawn their application for a Special Use designation. Fincham said, "I don't care, I feel that I have a conflict."
Pratt County Counselor Robert Schmisseur and Bickley Foster of Foster & Associates were asked by the Board to rewrite portions of the ordinance based on what BP was requesting and met last week in Wichita to do just that, according to Foster.
Board member Morgan Trinkle addressing the Board said, "I've got a problem with them writing it for them (BP).
"You guys are consultants," said Trinkle to Schmisseur and Foster. "They're not!"
When asked about the language used in the rewrite, Schmisseur said repeatedly, "I don't care one way or the other."
Board member Rick Shriver said, after discussing the two-phase approach to completing the Special Use Permit, "I think this makes the process better and I don't think we have lost anything.
The question of who would be responsible for actually doing the various studies required, brought several different opinions.
Foster kept pushing for BP to have to complete all of the various studies relating to the project and could thus relate them to the overall wind farm project plan.
"By living in the third party, you would be sending in the assessment of the third party instead of the applicant," Foster said.
Schmisseur, on the other hand, strongly disagreed, stating a professional would not risk his/her credentials for one study that would ruin their reputation.
"I don't completely agree independent studies are worthless," said Schmisseur. "I'm a little bit concerned state and feds may not look at something because they don't have time. I like an independent who would he held responsible for something if they absolutely bastardized themselves.
"An expert will tell you who they work for," continued Schmisseur. "An independent should be able to provide a list of credentials and who their clients are. If they worked totally for BP, they are not independents."
Page 2 of 2 - "There are some things in here that make this process better," commented Board Chairman Kent Moore.
Independent third-party studies assessing the following aspects of the project include an inventory, identification of potential impacts from the CWEP construction or operation, and possible mitigation measures shall include:
• The capacity of roads, bridges and culverts over which equipment for the CWEP will travel during the construction phase, to withstand the expected traffic.
• Archaeological sites and sites of historical significance shall have a reconnaissance survey within the site.
• Endangered threatened or target list species.
• Avian impacts, including impacts on both nesting and migrating birds,
• Wetlands and other biologically sensitive areas within the site.
• Potential loss of local business.
• Potential property value changes.
A public hearing on the changes being proposed will be held before the Pratt County Planning Board on May 20th, 2013.