DOUGLAS – Local government officials are concerned about the cumulative effects of two major Rocky Mountain Power projects in Converse County, and they hope impact fees will help alleviate law enforcement, housing and other concerns.
Rocky Mountain Power recently obtained an industrial siting permit for two 66-turbine, 99-megawatt wind farms in the Rolling Hills area near Glenrock, with the potential to add another 26. Now, the company is proposing major maintenance and pollution control upgrades to the coal-fired Dave Johnston Power Plant on the outskirts of Glenrock.
State Industrial Siting Council permits are required for projects with construction costs of $170.3 million or more. The process is designed to help communities deal with the impacts of major new projects. Sales tax increases once a project starts are attributed to the project through a formula and returned to the local communities as impact funds.
The Industrial Siting Division has determined that the Dave Johnston work falls under its jurisdiction, administrator Todd Parfitt said. However, Rocky Mountain Power disagrees, and Parfitt has requested an opinion from the Wyoming attorney general’s office, he said.
“The nature of the work that PacifiCorp is engaging in, we believe, falls under ISC jurisdiction,” he said. “The cost of the construction work they’ll be doing at the facility is within the threshold. And also, just because of the nature of the impacts that we perceive would affect the local governments.”
PacifiCorp does business as Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming.
In the interim, PacifiCorp has voluntarily agreed to move forward with a “107” short-form application, which is simpler and less formal than a full “109” process, Parfitt said.
Parfitt said an industrial siting permit for the Dave Johnston work would consider the cumulative impacts of Rocky Mountain Power’s Rolling Hills and Glenrock wind farms. In particular, the council would weigh overlaps of work forces and potential housing issues.
The two projects would draw a sizable work force to the Glenrock region. The wind farm construction has started and should be complete by the end of the year, Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Jeff Hymas said. The company estimated a peak work force of 325 in August.
The power plant work is scheduled to start in June, with a work force peak planned for summer and fall of 2009. Hymas estimated more than 200 workers will be at the site for nine months in 2009, and would peak at 439 workers in September 2009. Most of the work would be complete by 2010, with some extending into 2012.
Plans call for replacement of emissions control equipment on Dave Johnston’s units 3 and 4, which would remove about 90 percent of sulfur dioxide and almost all particulate matter resulting from electric generation, Hymas said. In addition, the company plans to install “low-nox” burners on all four plant units, which would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
The improvements would meet anticipated requirements of future regulations and are part of Rocky Mountain Power’s commitment to reducing environmental impacts, he added.
Converse County Commission Chairman Jim Willox said that although the wind farm and power plant projects are good, the county will incur higher costs for services, law enforcement, road maintenance and more, and needs impact fees.
“When you take the wind farm, the retrofit of the power plant, there is going to be a huge work force in the Glenrock area for an 18-month period,” Willox said. “When you compound all those numbers, its going to be a significant impact on the area.”
Officials in Converse County say they are skeptical impact fees will materialize from the wind project, due to a state alternative energy sales tax exemption. The officials are similarly concerned that a large portion of the Dave Johnston retrofits could also be exempt as pollution control.
Douglas City Administrator Bobbe Fitzhugh said the only way communities will receive impact funds is if the sales tax base grows at the same time as the project. If companies don’t have to pay sales taxes on construction components due to the exemptions, any realization of local impact fees could be negligible.
The communities tentatively agreed that 75 percent of impact fees would go to Converse County and 25 percent to Natrona County. Fitzhugh noted that larger cities are more able to absorb the impacts of large work forces, while small-city resources are more easily strained. Of the Converse County portion, Rolling Hills would receive 2 percent; Glenrock, 60 percent; Douglas, 30 percent; and the county, 18 percent.
PacifiCorp has signed a contract with DJ Power Partners for the emissions control work, Hymas said. DJ Power is a joint venture between Omaha-based Kiewit and TIC-The Industrial Company, headquartered in Colorado.
By Rena Delbridge
14 April 2008
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