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Hearing over Wind Catcher recovery cost continues

OKLAHOMA CITY - Landowners both in opposition and support of a large wind energy project returned for a second day of testimony at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

The Commission is considering whether or not to grant a pre-approval request by the Public Service Company ('PSO') to recover $1.36 billion in costs related to the construction of the Wind Catcher Energy Connection. The $4.5 billion project includes a wind farm in the panhandle of Oklahoma which will be connected to a grid in Tulsa with a roughly 360-mile power line.

Darren Cloud lives in Bristow. He said the power line would across go across his property and be placed within 200 feet of his house, which is located on 43 acres of land.

"Obviously, that’s going to devalue my property. There will definitely be other issues with that line being that close my house, so I’ve asked them to move that line to the south where are there are no houses on some other property," Cloud said. "As far as I know, they’re estimating 40 to 60 percent devaluation because nobody wants to live right beside a line like that — that has that kind of power and that kind of noise."

Cloud was not the only person to speak in opposition on Tuesday. Greg Ganzkow, a director of land sales, said landowners across the state have described PSO as a "nightmare" to work with during the discussion of this project.

"You’re constantly going, is this coming through? Is it not? What do we disclose? How far does this power line have to be from a property where we disclose it to a potential buyer," Ganzkow told the Commission. "I have found over 15 years of taking people to show property, you start getting near that power line and they want out. That has an impact right off the bat of over $250-300 million in real estate value. That’s a big number that I please ask the Corporation Commission to take into consideration."

However, supporters also spoke up on Tuesday. Guymon Mayor Kim Peterson said he understands the concerns of landowners, but there are benefits to the project and a genuine need for sustainable energy that should not be ignored.

"We would love to see the panhandle of Oklahoma be the leading energy producing company of the state of Oklahoma. It gives our local citizens and landowners the royalty payments or payments for having either wind chargers or wind turbines on their land, or solar power," Mayor Peterson said. "With our need nowadays for electricity, it’s not getting less. People are using more and more electricity, with all the labor saving and our cell phones and our iPads and everything else."

Shane Haines, a landowner from Cimarron County, also spoke in support. As a local school board and banker, Haines said he knows people who would benefit from the project first-hand.

"What they need is consistent energy prices, not only now, and not even for the next five years, they need it for the next 25 years," Haines said.

During the hearing, Commissioner Bob Anthony pointed out the company could still move on with the project with or without OCC's approval of the recovery cost request. He asked Scott Norwood with the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers why there was a need for the approval at all.

"You would want some assurance or some nod in advance from regulators that this concept makes sense and it is a relatively unique concept," answered Norwood.

No decision was made on Tuesday. OCC chairman Dana Murphy said all of the testimonies and public comments would be taken into consideration.