Oklahoma Citizens File Class Action Lawsuit Against Wind Energy Companies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug 27, 2014
CONTACT: Cheena Pazzo
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Oklahoma Citizens File Class Action Lawsuit Against Wind Energy Companies
Seeking Reasonable Placement of Wind Farms to Protect Health of Nearby Residents

Oklahoma City, Okla. – Citizens of Canadian and Kingfisher counties filed a class action lawsuit in United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma today to prohibit the placement of wind turbines that will harm residents.

After exhausting all local and state legislative and government resources, members of the lawsuit are seeking protection from adverse health effects, and loss of use and value of their property, by requiring wind turbines be placed a safe distance from their homes.

There are multiple wind farms planned for Kingfisher and Canadian counties consisting of more than 300 industrial wind turbines. From plaintiff Julie Harris’ land, there are 47 turbines targeted near her home with the closest planned less than one-half mile from her property. The turbines are almost 500 feet tall, equivalent to approximately five-eighths (5/8) the size of Devon Tower in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla.

“Despite working tirelessly with local officials and the wind company to request a reasonable setback of wind turbines from our property, our only recourse now litigation,” said Terra Walker, a plaintiff and property owner in Okarche, Okla. “There are real health concerns when turbines are placed too close to homes. This is about requiring safe setbacks to protect the health and safety of our families.”

Plaintiffs are concerned about health impacts and interference in the use and enjoyment of their land. In the complaint, plaintiffs note that wind turbines emit infra and low frequency sounds that are inaudible to the human ear, but have a long history of causing adverse effects to the human body and mind, including sleep loss, increased stress and cardiac issues. Plaintiffs are also concerned about how noise and shadow flicker emitted from rotating blades deteriorates the ability—in both children and adults—to properly think, remember, or concentrate.

“The wind farms located next to our house have ruined our health and property,” said Tammy and Rick Huffstutlar, living outside of Calumet, Okla. and in the middle of the Canadian Hills Wind Farm.

The Huffstutlars live adjacent to wind turbines and experience significant shadow flicker, noise and disruptions in air pressure, resulting in a worsening heart condition, severe headaches, and lack of sleep.

“Industrial wind energy in Oklahoma is unregulated, allowing companies to build wind farms wherever they can make deals with landowners without any required notice to those impacted,” said Brent Robinson, Oklahoma Wind Action Association (OWAA) president. “Research shows a negative impact to health for people within three miles of a turbine. Therefore, we believe a three-mile setback from property lines is necessary to protect our families.”

OWAA, along with other Oklahoma organizations such as Oklahoma Property Rights Association and Wind Waste, are combining forces to advocate for sensible laws to protect people and oversee future development in Oklahoma. The non-profit associations are concerned about the long-term impact this unregulated industry will have on property owners, and are fighting for oversight to ensure turbines are appropriately placed, operated safely, well-maintained and there is adequate funding to remove abandoned wind farms.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Terra Walker, Cheyenne Ward, Julie Harris, Janelle Grellner, Elise Kochenower, Karri Parson, Cindy Shelley, and Oklahoma Wind Action Association. Defendants are APEX Wind Construction, LLC, APEX Clean Energy, Inc., APEX Clean Energy Holdings, LLC, Kingfisher Wind, LLC, Kingfisher Wind Land Holdings, LLC, Campbell Creek Wind, LLC, and Campbell Creek Wind Transmission, LLC .

Oklahoma Wind Action Association

Oklahoma Wind Action Association was founded in February 2014 to protect its members from negative affects of industrial wind turbines. The organization serves more than 150 citizens in Canadian and Kingfisher counties.

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City Of Piedmont, Copra and Apex Clean Energy Sign Wind Energy Agreements

Piedmont, OK, [December 9, 2013] – The City of Piedmont, Central Oklahoma Property Rights Association (COPRA), and Apex Clean Energy today announced the signing of two wind energy agreements, one between Apex and the City of Piedmont and one between Apex and COPRA. These agreements come after months of negotiations between the parties and the Agreement between Apex and the City of Piedmont defines a boundary governing where wind turbines may be placed in relation to the City of Piedmont. This boundary will replace the boundary established by Piedmont Ordinance 591, which, as a part of the agreement with the City, has been repealed by the Piedmont City Council.

“I appreciate the efforts of Apex in working with us to address the concerns of our citizens,” said Jim Crosby, City Manager of the City of Piedmont.

“COPRA and APEX have been in engaged in good-faith negotiations for several months. COPRA has been working on behalf of member landowners and local citizens and we are very pleased that the agreement is now completed. We would like to especially thank Jim Crosby, Piedmont City Manager, and the City of Piedmont for working with local residents to secure this agreement. We would also like to express our gratitude for the dedicated efforts of Canadian County Commissioner Phil Carson, Senator Rob Johnson and Representative Colby Schwartz,” said Pam Suttles on behalf of of the Central Oklahoma Property Rights Association.

“We are committed to working with nearby communities when we develop wind energy projects,” said Kent Dougherty, Apex Director of Project Development. “Projects like Kingfisher Wind will offer economic benefits to local landowners and county residents, and we are pleased that we have been able to find a way to build the project that addresses the concerns of the City of Piedmont.”

The Kingfisher Wind project will include property in northern Canadian County and southern Kingfisher County. No turbines will be placed within Piedmont City limits. Kingfisher Wind will generate enough electricity to power about 100,000 homes.

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United States required to account to Osage Headright Holders says 10th Circuit.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently breathed new life into the decade old Fletcher v. United States case. The court recently ruled that Osage Nation members William Fletcher and Charles Pratt are entitled to accounting information from the United States’ management of Osage oil and gas royalties.

The turn of the 20th century brought newfound wealth to many Osage Nation members through the discovery of significant oil and gas reserves on Osage lands. In 1906 the United States enacted a statutory scheme to manage these resources. The government scheme provided that the mineral rights underlying Osage lands would be transferred to the federal government and held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior for the benefit of the Osage Nation and its members.

The Osage mineral estate trust, administered by the Secretary of the Interior, is responsible for collecting and distributing royalties created by oil and gas exploration on Osage lands. The right to receive such royalties has become known as a “headright.”

The creation of headrights under the 1906 Act led to over a hundred years of uncertainty in the payment of royalties to rightful Osage headright owners. Over the years, numerous headrights were sold and willed to non-Osage persons, sometimes through fraud and murder. This resulted in a questionable and spotty record as to the validity of payments made from the federal government Trust Fund.

In 2002, William Fletcher and Charles Pratt filed suit against the United States claiming that the United States had breached its trust responsibly to the Osage people by failing to account for its management of the Osage mineral estate, allowing headrights to be unlawfully transferred to non-Osages and by restricting participation in Osage elections to headright holders. In 2004, the United States resolved the election claims through Congressional action. However, the United States attempted to have the remaining claims dismissed several times over the last decade on different grounds, the most recent of which was the United States’ claim that only the Osage Nation was entitled to an accounting of royalty payments. The 10th Circuit disagreed.

On September 13, 2013 the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Pratt are in fact entitled to an accounting from the government’s management of the Osage mineral estate trust. The court rejected the government’s argument that it’s duty to provide an accounting extended only to the Osage Nation. Instead the court reasoned that the trust relationship exists for the benefit of individual Osage headright holders and they are entitled to an accounting of these funds.

This ruling represents a crucial step in Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Pratt’s goal of determining whether headright payments have been incorrectly paid out of the trust accounts originally established for the benefit of the Osage people.

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$73 Million Jury Award Granted in Johnston County Sewage Spill

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Tishomingo, Oklahoma, September 25, 2013 – On Tuesday, September 24, a Johnston County jury in Johnston County District Court awarded three Mill Creek, Oklahoma families $73 million in damages for 10 million gallons of sewage that was pumped into creeks and streams on their properties in October of 2006. In addition to recreational and aesthetic uses, the families relied upon the creeks and streams for their household water supply.

The case was filed in 2007 on behalf of the Sikes, Converse, and Shirley-Robbins families.

The jury assessed a $60 million punitive damage award against Mehlburger Brawley, Inc., an Oklahoma Engineering Firm, and B3, Inc., an Arkansas construction and excavation company, for wrongful conduct as it related to the sewage discharge.

Lead counsel in the case included Jason Aamodt, of the Environmental Law Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Trae Gray of LandownerFirm.com in Coalgate, Oklahoma.

“The jury voiced a clear message that water is one of the most valuable natural resources and that must be respected,” Gray said. “These clients were incredible. Over the past seven years they went through hell and never wavered. I believe the team approach we took to trying this case was unconventional and it worked. That team consisted of Jason Aamodt, Krystina Phillips, Dallas Strimple, Ryan Ellis and myself. Judge Migliorino, the jury and entire courthouse staff should be thanked for providing this venue for justice in the case,” he said.

One of the plaintiffs, Ava Converse, commented on the verdict.

“We waited seven long years for this and the jury’s award solidified what we, the families, knew all along about how wrong this was,” Converse said. “We, the families and the lawyers, became a family through all of this. We experienced a horrible thing, but through it all we became extremely close. I think the jury respected this and recognized that what happened was very wrong. All along, we wanted others to know that what B3 and Mehlburger Brawley did to the Sikes, Shirley-Robbins and my family was wrong. This has now happened and it means more to me than I can convey with words,” she said.

There were some unusual aspects to the trial, according to Gray.

“In an interesting turn of events, Mehlburger Brawley fired their attorneys three weeks prior to the trial, Gray said. “The case was tried on damages only as liability was determined prior to the jury taking the box. B3 was unwilling to leave Arkansas to appear for trial. A federal bankruptcy court previously denied B3’s request to discharge any judgment with respect to B3 and the families. This being a land damages case, the next step will be to seek approval of our attorney fees from the court. After that, we will try to collect these judgments on behalf of the families,” he said.

About LandownerFirm.com

LandownerFirm.com was founded in 2006 by Coalgate, Oklahoma natural resources trial lawyer Trae Gray. The firm focuses specifically on natural resources law. The firm’s clients include farmers, ranchers, individuals, small and mid-sized businesses and CEO’s of major corporations who hire the firm to protect their land. The firm’s website is: www.landownerfirm.com.

About Environmental Law Center

The Environmental Law Center, PLLC was founded in 2013 by Krystina Phillips, Dallas Strimple and Jason Aamodt. As a boutique law firm, ELC focuses primarily on environmental law, water law, Indian law, and complex civil litigation for clients from all areas of Oklahoma. ELC is in the process of launching a website at http://www.envlawok.com but currently operates a facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/EnviroLawOK.

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Jason Aamodt speaks with Tulsa’s News on 6 regarding Baby Veronica case

NewsOn6.com – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – KOTV.com |

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