Awhile back the Rawlins Daily Times Editorial Board wrote an opinion piece, Hot Air and Cold Wind in which they lamented that the Chokecherry Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project south of Rawlins isn’t necessarily the windfall it’s projected to be. They called it a “Game Changer.”
It is indeed a Game Changer. And the winners are a rich entrepreneur and other states that don’t want more development in their own backyards. Apparently, though, it is OK for our backyards to be trashed to serve their energy needs.
The editorial touched on the losses to Wyoming by industrializing an area “in the middle of a natural expanse”. In fact this vast natural expanse is smack dab in the middle of prime wildlife habitat and crucial winter range. Sage grouse, deer, elk, raptors and other species abound in the area. While the visual destruction created by this project will be offensive to those of us who treasure Wyoming’s spectacular scenery, it will be extremely destructive to the cherished wildlife in this area, especially on and around Miller Hill.
Power lines, concrete pads for 1000 turbines, and permanent roads to each and every turbine will drastically alter the landscape habitat. Five semi-truck deliveries or more to build each turbine site will cause immense damage to the local highway system. The list goes on and on: the impacts to our infrastructure, public lands and quality of life are almost too much to comprehend. It is an abomination!
Unfortunately, this is just more of the same for a state that is willing to be the ENERGY COLONY of the world. Ironically, like victims of abuse, time and again we refuse to set adequate boundaries and seem to believe we “deserve” to be treated this way. In obeisance we welcome every industrial project that comes down the pike. Consequently, our state air, land and water quality become more and more abused.
Ironically, in this country we have the right to free speech, but Wyoming citizens don’t have the legal right to clean air, water and land. Even though, those assets have hard, economic value, as natural systems are deteriorating around the world, their worth is not quantified and adequately protected by law.
Inexplicably, we remain unwilling to require companies to develop incrementally and appropriately to protect our citizens and our wildlife. Too much too fast has led to rural Pinedale Wyoming having the poorest air quality in the nation.
To add insult to injury we give away our resources: we refuse to tax the vultures adequately for the resources they gobble up. And, our Industrial Siting law has been whittled down to a largely ineffective process that does little to help our infrastructure cope with growth. Requiring fiscal responsibility from developers is seen as punitive and anti-business.
Zoning and planning have become bad words. Few see the wisdom of zoning and planning for a future landscape where our citizens have quality of life and our wildlife and scenery are protected.
“Paul Revere” messengers have warned us time and again. Governor Ed Herschler urged development only on “our terms”. T.A. Larsen asked us “to ponder whether what the world wants from Wyoming is worth more than what Wyoming already offers the world.”
For, it is curious that we tout our world class scenery, wildlife and quality of life and recognize that it is second to nowhere else in the world. Yet, we are unable to recognize what historian Larsen was saying. What we offer the world is of greater value than simply being an energy colony to the entire world. (Did you know, that many energy companies now actively operating in Wyoming are owned by foreign countries?)
Although we have a strong sense of community, we take our riches for granted. Protecting and preserving our place and our habitat with active stewardship has not become the norm. We have yet to make a pact with our descendents that assures them future quality of life. We continue to submit our communities to wave after wave of transient labor intent on self-enrichment, instead of economic development that is locally owned and locally directed, sustainable, diverse and non-polluting.
Now, we are told that Governor Mead is developing a state energy policy that he promises to be a balance between energy development and quality of life and environmental concerns. Though skeptical that this can happen in the Wyoming political arena, it will be interesting to see what he has in mind. For, little is left now of the “pie” that has already been sliced and diced time and again. I hope his plan is more visionary than those we’ve seen in the past. It is time that Wyoming becomes a responsible “Game Changer.
(Excerpts from the policy document, Wyoming’s Terms, 1987 were used in this opinion piece.)
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