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Permitting concerns swirl  

Credit:  By SCOTT BORKGREN, Reporter, Douglas Budget, www.douglas-budget.com 3 November 2010 ~~

“The suggested changes would be to trash it, and start all over,” rancher Heidi Cross said regarding the proposed Converse County wind farm permitting guidelines.

“You drive up to Casper and . . . just look at it. It is miserable, it’s disgusting, it’s dirty,” Cross said. Her comments were similar to others made during the lengthy hearing Tuesday before the Converse County Commission.

A packed house – one that was near unanimously opposed to wind energy development in the mountains – voiced many objections during the hearing Nov. 2. The meeting, initially scheduled to last one hour, continued through the lunch hour and was finally tabled at 1:20 p.m. due to afternoon meetings that also required the commissioners’ attention.

A 10:30 a.m. Wednesday meeting with Knife River Corporation concerning a gravel pit road use agreement has been cancelled. The commission will now use that time as a work session to review recommendations from the public hearing and possibly make revisions to the current permitting guidelines. Though the public is allowed to attend work sessions, public comment will not be allowed Wednesday.

Person after person, many of who were members of the Northern Laramie Range Alliance, spoke against wind energy development in Converse County and more specifically, south and west of I-25 at elevations above 5,500 feet.

Kenneth Lay of the NLRA read a statement that said, in part, “I’m here today with many other citizens because the action you are considering is one of the most important in our recent history. It’s important because industrial scale wind energy generation is transforming Converse County and not for the better. Already, it has industrialized many tens of thousands of acres of previously open county and replaced quiet and the dark sky at night with that peculiar turbine rush and hundreds of blinking strobes. And the pressure for more of this continues.”

Several other speakers reiterated their objections for more than two hours that they consider wind turbines unattractive and loud, that they would reduce neighboring property values and that they are not in the best interest of Converse County and are against the majority opinion of voters.

“I appreciate the comments, but we really have to keep the focus on the regulations because that is all this hearing is,” Chairman Ed Werner said. “We have heard, and it is very emotional and I appreciate that, for quite some number of months now about specific issues. But this is a hearing for us to hear comment specifically about the regulations and suggested changes to them.”

The commissioners unanimously voted Aug. 3 not to enact zoning regulations in Converse County. At that meeting, Commissioner Jim Willox said before the vote that the objections provided from the community did not justify the commission overriding private property rights.

“I started from a preference of protecting private property rights, and I believe that starts on an individual’s own property,” he said Aug. 3. “If we are going to infringe on somebody’s private property rights and their right to do something on there, I believe public safety is the first thing I would look at.”

NLRA attorney Peter Nicolaysen requested the commissioners make a motion to enact a 30-day or 90-day moratorium to prevent Wasatch Wind from submitting its Pioneer Wind Park application to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality before the commission has had time to revise and approve permitting guidelines. According to public comment from DEQ representatives at a previous Converse County commission meeting, Wasatch Wind intends to file its application before Thanksgiving.

The commission voted 5-0 against enacting a moratorium on large-scale development on land south and west of I-25 at elevations above 5,500 feet on Jan. 5. No commissioner made a motion at the public hearing to enact a moratorium.

“Those are the mountainous areas that we all appreciate and enjoy,” Nicolaysen said at that meeting.

Source:  By SCOTT BORKGREN, Reporter, Douglas Budget, www.douglas-budget.com 3 November 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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