Tribal Council passes Wind Farm resolution 10-6

Former Reporter
10/18/2016 04:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
During the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting in October Tribal Councilor Jack Baker discusses his reasons for not supporting the wind farm project that will be built on the Chilocco Indian School property. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Shannon Buhl, left, takes his oath of office after being renominated as Marshal of the Cherokee Nation. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved a resolution on Oct. 17 authorizing the Cherokee Nation to execute a lease agreement with Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC, a company owned by PNE Wind USA, Inc.

According to the resolution, the tribe “since time immemorial has exercised the sovereign right of self-government on behalf of the Cherokee people…” and “the Cherokee Nation encourages economic development and acknowledges renewable energy resources are necessary to prevent land and air pollution as an alternative to the use of fossil fuels and is part of our long-term solution toward energy sustainability.”

“Be it resolved by the Cherokee Nation that the Council recognizes that Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC will obtain debt financing and equity investments to fund the wind resource infrastructure project and that it is necessary to grant a limited waiver of sovereign immunity for the sole purpose of allowing Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC to initiate causes of action against the Cherokee Nation in the event of default under the terms of the Wind Resource Lease Agreement,” the legislation states.

Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors Dick Lay and Buel Anglen both discussed openly why they would vote against the legislation.

“I think it’s going to essentially destroy our Chilocco property. It’s our trust property the only trust and only property we have left of the old Cherokee Outlet,” said Lay. “It’s impossible for me to vote for a waiver of sovereign immunity so that some foreign controlled windmill company can get a bank loan. I just can’t bring myself to do that.”

Councilor Anglen agreed with Lay saying that the need for the company to have the waiver of sovereign immunity to borrow money without knowing background or anything about it is something he cannot do.

“My true reason for not supporting this Chilocco property – I have relatives that attended boarding school there and to me it’s just going to destroy that property and just in my heart I cannot support destroying that property. If it was private property, I’m all for windmills…but not on the Chilocco Indian property,” he added.

Councilor Harley Buzzard, who originally didn’t support this legislation, said he would be in support of it stating that after the earthquake around CN Holiday he was even more so interested in cleaner energy.

“Then I thought about the windmill farm and how clean energy that is and I thought about the injection wells that are up and down the northern part of Oklahoma which cause the earthquakes in my opinion,” he said. “I know we’ll always have to have oil for what we do, but this is a small part in getting away from those oil companies now that’s ruining part of our lands.”

Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said he also was very hesitant in the beginning.

“But I did speak with those tribes also. Visited with the leader of the Kaw Nation and they have a wind farm right there and they shared with me, this will be good. I think the money that we’ll be bringing in, but it’s not just about the money. It’s an alternative resource of energy that we’re looking into here,” he said. “We have to look at other sources of energy.”

The Cherokee Phoenix requested a copy of the Wind Resource Lease Agreement, but was denied due to “confidentiality obligations” and said that the start on construction is expected to be within the next two years.

“As this is an ongoing development the start of construction is depending on many factors. At this point full advancement of construction is anticipated for late 2017 or early 2018,” said Kenny Wheeler, project manager for PNE Wind USA, Inc. “Also the start of operation of the project is depending on many factors. Our best estimate at this point is late 2018.”

Wheeler added that the final decision on where the energy will be distributed has not been made, but the energy once determined will be marketed to another entity.

“Cherokee Nation will receive revenue in form of a lease payment. The lease payment is tied to the revenues of energy sales,” he added. “Due to confidentiality obligations we are not at liberty to share the revenue details. Please get in contact with the relevant authorities of Cherokee Nations government or Cherokee Nation Businesses.”

At this time, this is the only wind farm operated by PNE Wind USA, Inc. in the area of the Chilocco Indian School.

The resolution passed 10-6 with Councilors Lay, Anglen, Don Garvin, Baker, Crittenden, Walkingstick voting no. At Large Councilor Wanda Hatfield was absent.

Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill said this wind farm will bring in revenue in the form of land leases with PNE Wind USA, Inc., but not the actual wind energy produced.

“It really just is a ground lease. The money will come in through the lease process. We do benefit from the money that comes through there (the project) in the sense that it supports the ground leasing. The only time we would get additional payments beyond that off of the leasing would be if there was a real big spike in energy prices. If that energy was a lot more valuable that we expected it to be then Cherokee Nation, if they got a windfall, they could share in that. We don’t anticipate that being the case, but if it occurred the Cherokee Nation could make additional money off of that. We are doing the ground lease so that the development can occur,” Hill said.

She added that she appreciates this deal because it is helping to produce a more clean energy, which in the end will be a great help to the Cherokee people.

“I think that is a benefit that we can see as the wind farm moves forward,” she added.

Minimum payments expected from the lease are around $1,000,000 per year, although that amount can change year to year. According to officials, two other tribes have leases also with PNE Wind USA, Inc. the Kaw Nation and Otoe Missouria.

In addition, the Tribal Council confirmed the renomination of Shannon Buhl as Marshal for the CN. His term was set to expire in November. The new term will begin in November 2016 and end in November 2021.

The Tribal Council amended the agenda to add a resolution from committee authorizing the participation in a nationwide elder needs assessment.

According to the legislation, the CN has partnered with the “University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Services to provide a past Needs Assessment instrument, evaluation, and reporting with no cost to the Cherokee Nation.”


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