CHEYENNE – A proposed two-year extension of Wyoming’s moratorium on wind developers’ eminent domain powers breezed through the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday.
Agriculture Committee members unanimously approved House Bill 230, which would prevent private wind companies from condemning land to build collector lines to connect wind turbines with transmission lines.
The legislation, which passed the House earlier this week, now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.
State Rep. Kermit Brown, the Laramie Republican sponsoring the bill, said allowing the current one-year moratorium to expire on July 1 would raise landowners’ wariness of eminent domain when dealing with wind developers on land leases to build collector lines.
Brown said landowners want more time to develop a plan for legislators’ consideration that would either ban or restrict wind companies’ use of eminent domain.
“I just want to get enough time to say to the wind developers, the landowners and the generation site people, ‘Get a deal made,’” he said. “If they can’t get a deal done [in two years], I think we’ve done all we need to do.”
Another supporter of the legislation was Sharon Rodeman, an Albany County landowner who serves on the steering committee of the Northern Laramie Range Alliance, a group of landowners against wind development in the Laramie Range uplands.
Rodeman said she’s seen the blinking lights from wind towers grow closer and closer to her land over the years. And with her property between those towers and the proposed route of the Gateway West transmission line, she said the moratorium is needed to keep her property untouched.
“We’re trying to protect our heritage for our kids,” she said.
But Dan Sullivan, a lobbyist for the Wyoming Power Producers Coalition, a group of Wyoming independent wind developers, said fears of wind developers exploiting eminent domain powers haven’t happened in real life.
“Nobody’s showed a specific problem – simply a ‘what would happen,’ ‘maybe if’ kind of thing,” he said.
Banning eminent domain use for only one industry, Sullivan also said, would be “overkill.”
“It is important that they have the right of condemnation, if they need it, in order to, for the public good and convenience, get that power to the Wyoming distributor as cheap as they can,” he said.
The next step in the legislation is for Brown to find a Senate sponsor for the legislation, which was hurriedly put together after similar legislation died in committee earlier in this year’s legislative session.
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