DOUGLAS – Before a packed courtroom serving as a hearing room, Converse County commissioners received comments for and against a permit for two wind farms south of Glenrock.
Given the chance to show support for development of the wind farms, proposed by Park City, Utah-based Wasatch Wind Inc., approximately three-fourths of the audience members stood to their feet Monday night.
“Converse County needs all the industrial improvements we can get,” said Hershel Wickett, a landowner from Glenrock and volunteer firefighter with the Glenrock Fire Department.
Yet there was firm opposition by some landowners and the Northern Laramie Range Alliance, a landowner group against the farms. The group has 500 members in Converse County, who made up a small but vocal contingent of the approximately 150 people who attended the hearing.
While more than a dozen members of the public and organization representatives got up to speak, the podium was dominated by representatives of Wasatch Wind and the Northern Laramie Range Alliance.
Peter Nicolaysen, representing the alliance, himself, and others opposed to the wind farms, ran through a list of objections to a decision to grant Wasatch Wind’s permit application.
The objections included complaints about Wasatch’s recent shift in a number of turbine locations based on community and state Industrial Siting Commission feedback, insufficient notice by the company of changes in its plans, and vague language in the permit application.
“They took into account what the state agencies were saying, they took into account what the town of Glenrock was saying,” he said. But they haven’t “taken into account how their revised site plan impacts the landowners that they failed from the beginning to notify.”
Wasatch representatives disputed the claims, saying they had fulfilled their notification requirements. And while they acknowledged they had recently shifted the planned location for many of the turbines, they argued their plan was still within county guidelines.
“When you look at what we have done, I would suggest to you we have not changed the scope of this project,” said John Masterson, an attorney for Wasatch.
If Wasatch is granted the permit, it would clear a major hurdle toward developing the two 31-turbine wind farms, named Pioneer I and Pioneer II. Both sites are along Mormon Canyon Road south of Glenrock, and Wasatch Wind says the projects will cost between $180 million to $200 million.
If Wasatch obtains all needed permissions and permits, it plans to complete construction of the first wind farm this year and finish the next farm by the end of 2012.
Rocky Mountain Power agreed last year to purchase the power produced by the proposed wind farms.
Wasatch currently has an application before the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council, which is due to consider the application before May 27, although the exact hearing date isn’t set.
Converse county Commissioner Jim Willox said the commision’s timeline to make a decision about the permit had been eased by the siting council’s delay.
The commissioners emphasized that they would accept public comment up to when they make the decision. That decision date is not yet set but will be within 45 days of Monday’s hearing.
Commission Chairman Mike Colling said he expects it will happen before then.
“We’re not going to make a decision tonight,” he said. “I think we have too much to digest.”
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