A federal judge sided with a Native American tribe in a dispute with a major wind developer on Wednesday, handing a massive defeat to the wind industry to end 2023.
U.S. Court of International Trade Judge Jennifer Choe-Groves ordered Enel, a major green energy company based in Rome with an American presence, to tear down an enormous wind farm that the firm had constructed in Osage County, Oklahoma, over the consistent protest of the Osage tribe who live in the area, according to the Tulsa World. The ruling is a huge victory for the Osage tribe, who opposed the project because of its location relative to burial sites and the ecological damage inflicted upon eagles by the massive turbines, and a stark defeat for Enel, which is now staring down hundreds of millions of dollars in decommissioning charges.
The wind farm had been the subject of a lengthy legal battle between the Osage Nation and the developer, spanning back to 2011, when the tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the development illegally deprived the tribe of access to the mineral deposits beneath the site of the project, according to the Tulsa World. The project featured 84 turbines, as well as required equipment like transmission lines and weather towers, spread over 8,400 acres of land that Choe-Groves asserted was leased illegally and to the detriment of the tribe’s sovereignty.
There will be a trial for damages following Choe-Groves’ ruling, according to the Tulsa World.
Notably, Enel states on its website that it exhibits “an unmatched commitment to sustainability and a just and inclusive energy transition for all.” Paolo Romanacci, who is the head of Enel Green Power North America, also serves as the director for the American Clean Power Association, a green energy trade group that has spent millions of dollars lobbying the federal government to advance the interests of the green energy industry, according to data from Open Secrets.
The ordered deconstruction of 84 wind turbines is “unprecedented,” according to Robert Bryce, an energy sector expert who also keeps track of local rejections of major renewable energy projects across the country. Bryce estimates that the company stood to reap tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies for the project, a dynamic which he considers at least partially responsible for the firm’s insistence to continue building and operating the project despite the persistent objections of the tribe.
“I hope no other tribe has to do what we had to do,” Osage Minerals Council Chairman Everett Waller told the Tulsa World, referencing the tribe’s long legal battle against the project. “This is a win not only for the Osage Minerals Council; this is a win for Indian Country. There are a lot of smaller tribes that couldn’t have battled this long, but that’s why we’re Osages. We’re here, and this is our homeland, and we are going to protect it at all costs.”
Enel did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
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