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Pioneer Wind Park debate heats up in advance of county hearing Monday

As many local residents know, the winds of Wyoming are one of this land’s most distinguishing features. Invisible, yet powerful, this force has been known to carry a small song bird on a gentle breeze or rip enormous structures down to their foundations.

But lately, this ever-present element has been bringing more than just tumble weeds to Converse County; a huge debate is now brewing over the question: are wind turbines really necessary?

Wasatch Wind has proposed the construction of two new turbine projects in the Northern Laramie Range called the Pioneer Wind Park. The two parks are expected to generate approximately 100mW of power and would consist of a combined 62 turbines.

Some residents of the area are up in arms over the potential industrial scar this new park could put on the natural landscape, calling the proposed area a “sacrifice zone.”

“The Wasatch Project is looking more and more like the first step in the total industrialization of the Northern Laramies,” said the Northern Laramie Range Alliance in an ad they purchased in advance of the Converse County hearing next Monday on Pioneer Wind Parks I and II. (See full text of ad on page A3).

Other residents in the area will gain financially from the wind park and support green energy projects. They area also urging their supporters to attend two upcoming hearings on county and state permits.

A hearing before the Converse County Commission is scheduled for April 11 at 5 p.m. at the courthouse in Douglas to discuss the proposed wind park’s county permit and allow public input on the projects.

This is the first hearing for any project under the county’s new permitting process for industrial proposals in the county.

In addition, Wasatch’s two wind park projects are scheduled to go before the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council (ISC) for another set of permits, this time from the state.

The ISC slated the hearings to begin at 8:30 a.m. April 21 at the Clarion Inn and Convention Center in Douglas.

Opinions of supporters of the wind farm vastly contrast those of the NLRA, stating that the wind farm is just another way for the state to earn tax revenue.

“The projects will pay wind energy generation taxes, property taxes, and at least one of the projects will pay sales tax,” said landowners Mark and Angela Grant in their letter to the community (purchased as an ad as well, and the full text can be read on page A-5). “We need these taxes to help Converse County improve services and facilities for our residents.”

Grant wrote the new park poses no real threat of encroachment on unaffiliated landowners, because the park would only run along private property situated at least two miles from other property.

“Converse County relies on the energy industry. It provides jobs and ongoing tax revenue that allows our residents to enjoy their ways of life,” Grant said. “If we let non-residents drive wind energy away from our county, we risk opening the door for other groups to drive other industries away, taking revenue from our residents and jobs from our children and grandchildren with them.”