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Opponents of Glenrock wind farms to sue

CASPER, Wyo. – A landowner group opposed to two wind farms planned for south of Glenrock will take the state board that approved the wind energy project permit to court.

The Industrial Siting Council, a state board that must sign off on large wind energy projects, approved the farms known together as the Pioneer Wind Project by a 4-3 vote Monday.

Wasatch Wind of Park City, Utah, is the developer of the 62-turbine, 100-megawatt project planned for two sites along Mormon Canyon Road.

The Northern Laramie Range Alliance, or NRLA, a vocal group of nearby landowners and others opposed to the project, announced its plans for the lawsuit Tuesday.

“We are disappointed with the decision of the Industrial Siting Council, as we believe Wasatch Wind did not meet the statuatory requirements, and we look forward to judicial review of the decision,” the alliance said in a media release.

The council approved a permit for the wind energy project that is good for two years. But it added a number of conditions to the permit including an $18.8 million bond from Wasatch Wind, insisting on special radar-controlled lights and requiring the company work with nearby landowners to reduce the audio and visual impacts of the tall, white wind turbines.

The council members expressed concern about the financial aspects of the project, particularly the deteriorating credit rating of California-based Edison Mission Energy, which has an agreement with Wasatch to build and operate the wind project.

To counter those concerns, the council required that Wasatch must show it and its partners are financially capable of building, operating and taking down the wind farms prior to beginning construction.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s Industrial Siting Division, of which the Industrial Siting Council is a part, wouldn’t comment on the Northern Laramie Range Alliance’s announcement because it involves pending litigation.

But Wasatch Wind, which now has both county and state approval to move forward with its $180 million to $200 million project, struck an upbeat note after the council decision and again after the alliance announcement on Tuesday.

“The NLRA’s continued opposition to the projects is not a surprise,” said Michelle Stevens, spokeswoman for Wasatch Wind. “But Wyoming’s Industrial Siting Division as well as a majority of the Industrial Siting Council agree that we have met the requirements of the law. Therefore we are confident that the projects will continue to move forward.”

The Northern Laramie Range Alliance is also in the midst of a battle with the Converse County Commission in district court over the commissioner’s 4-1 decision on May 10 to grant a permit for the wind energy project.

It’s likely the alliance will wait to file a lawsuit against the Industrial Siting Council until the council releases the text of its decision. That written decision is due on July 28, or 45 days after the council’s vote on Monday.