By unanimous decision, the Pratt County Commissioners voted Monday night to approve the BP application to establish a wind energy farm in Pratt County.
But don't expect construction to start on the wind farm soon. Exhaustive information about every aspect of the wind farm must be gathered and put together and presented to the commissioners at another hearing before the project can proceed.
The next step in the Ninnescah Wind Energy Project Development Plan is for BP to produce, in detail, all the elements that will be necessary to produce the wind farm.
A detailed map and description of the entire area under consideration for construction will include locations and descriptions of each generator, roads, structures, oil and gas wells, utility lines, oil and gas wells and storage facilities creek, rivers and so on.
At this point in time, it is unknown how many generators, their location and how tall they would be is unknown. That is what the next phase of the process will provide.
Several audience members spoke both in favor of the project and against.
Pat Brant, a landowner in the area under consideration, favored the project and has already benefited, as well as other landowners, from the preliminary BP process.
She said wind is a boundless source of kinetic energy and that windmills had been an important part of the county history. If the wind farm doesn't come, the entire county would lose out financially.
Sue Peachey said a power line would be necessary for the wind farm and that it would come in under eminent domain that landowners couldn't control.
She wants the commission to make sure that whatever happens that BP has to follow the county regulations and process.
"Just follow your own process," Peachey said. "Just follow the rules."
Kent Goyen said he had heard enough negative words about the project. The county forefathers fought for progress and it was time to go ahead and support the wind farm.
Greg Bacon said he was concerned about a possible financial obligation BP would leave the county when the wind farm was decommissioned. He estimated a $77.5 million shortfall for the county considering the cost of decommissioning the wind generators.
He was also concerned about the loss of property values for those living in the wind generator farm area. He also said BP had failed to meet the county zoning regulations in their application.
Karen Kumberg said she wondered if the area was suitable for a wind farm and that all but one of the people who had spoken in favor of the farm did not live in the proposed area. She was concerned that a wind farm would make the area unsuitable for future housing development.
Berry Bortz said underground oil and gas facilities had to be identified. The Brehm and Cunningham are known but a Konold facility has not been properly documented.
Steve Stark, an attorney for Greg Bacon, said some errors in the application had been made and needed correcting. He was concerned about county regulations determining minimum set back but not maximum and that the commissioners should keep some control when BP would be required to present a product and require a definite date.
The worst thing that could happen would be to approve a wind farm and it never gets built, Stark said.
Dwane DeWeese said he had fiends in Kingman County that had a very positive rapport with BP and that BP had paid for road repairs.
Karl Pierce, BP Wind Energy director, business development, presented an aerial map of the area under consideration for the wind farm. This was not a detailed map showing every element necessary to meet all the application requirements but just to give the commissioners an idea where the farm would be located.
Tim Branscom, zoning administrator, presented to the commissioners some changes to the Special Use Report that the Planning Board requested: further information on the effects to property value, conduct a study on the potential impact to commercial and agriculture business in the county, conduct a study on the potential agriculture business and residential property value changes in the county.
Much discussion was on "accessory structures" and what they were and their setback issues.
Branscom said his interpretation of the identity requirements for each item in the proposed area would serve no purpose at this time and would just clutter a map to a point it would be unreadable.
He, along with Pratt County Commissioner Joe Reynolds, read six letters favoring the project and dealing with positive economic impact for the county and the environment.