District Judge Keith Kautz of the Court of the Eighth Judical District on Jan. 19 ruled against the appeals filed by the Northern Laramie Range Alliance (NLRA) and the Northern Laramie Range Foundation (NLRF) challenging the permits granted to Wasatch Wind for the planned construction of its Pioneer Wind Parks south of Glenrock.
Pioneer Wind Park I and Pioneer Wind Park II, each containing 31 wind turbines, are planned for land in the Boxelder/Mormon Canyon area about 10 miles south of Glenrock.
The company received the approval of the Converse County Commissioners in May for its county wind permit, and the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council (ISC) voted 4-3 June 13 to approve a conditional permit for the project.
The NLRA is opposed to industrial development in or near the mountains of the Laramie Range and has fought Wasatch Wind since the project’s inception.
The ISC gave its final approval for construction on July 21, with numerous conditions attached.
In two separate civil suits, the NLRA and NLRF challenged the issuance of those permits on several grounds. They argued that the ISC’s decision “was arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, unsupported by substantial evidence, and not in accordance with the law.”
The groups made similar claims in the case against the county permit, in addition to claiming that commissioners failed to follow their own procedural rules and regulations when they allowed the public additional time to submit written comments.
Regarding the ISC permit appeal, Judge Kautz ruled that the Industrial Siting Act authorizes the ISC to place conditions on the permit affording Wasatch time to provide additional evidence of its financial resources prior to construction.
In that permit, Special Condition #19 states, “If sufficient financial resources are not obtained within two years, the Permit shall expire.”
The court ruled that the concerns of the petitioner over the financial capabilities of the company are groundless because “Special Condition #19 does not let Wasatch out of this requirement in the least, and also gives Wasatch a narrow time period to come up with the money to construct, operate, and maintain the facility.”
In his ruling, Judge Kautz stated that the ISC was legally obligated to issue the permit to Wasatch and that “Petitioners and their members still have legal redress through the ISC’s review process.”
Regarding issuance of the county permit, the court concluded that the Board had a rational basis to extend the time for public comment.
The judge stated, “The Board of Commissioners’ decision to grant Wasatch’s WECS permit was not arbitrary nor capricious. The Board’s decision was in accordance with Wyoming law, and did not violate due process.”
Wasatch Wind Director of Marketing and Communications Michelle Stevens said that the company is not surprised by the outcome of the suits.
“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” she said. “We’re not surprised, because we’ve done everything right, we’ve done everything legal. We followed all the rules and regulations, all the statutes. We’ve even gone above and beyond in many cases.”
Stevens said that the company is still on track to begin construction in late spring or early summer.
The NLRA also has an appeal pending to the Wyoming Public Service Commission’s ruling allowing the company to extend its power purchase agreement (PPA) with Rocky Mountain Power. And it has filed a challenge to the company’s plans with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the basis of those PPAs, claiming that those agreements should be ruled invalid.
The NLRA could also appeal the District Court rulings to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
A call to NLRA legal counsel was not returned by press time.