The Sweetwater County Commissioners approved a nine-month moratorium on Commercial Wind Farm Tuesday morning.
Eric Bingham, director of land use in the county’s planning and zoning department, said the moratorium would allow the department time to bring county regulation on par with state wind farm regulations.
The state requires county regulations to at least meet the minimum requirements passed by the Wyoming Legislature in 2010. Currently, Sweetwater County does not meet these requirements and any decision by the county for a commercial wind farm permit would be illegal.
Regulations which would have brought wind farm codes up to date were included in the county’s Unified Development Code. However, the code was defeated by the planning and zoning commission on Oct. 13, 2010. After that, work on wind farm regulations stopped.
Both Bingham and Mark Kot, the county’s public lands specialist, said the requirements for public involvement in the state’s statutes are different than what was in place at the county, which necessitates the moratorium. The county’s planning and zoning commission recommended the moratorium and voted to bring the issue to the county commissioners.
Bingham added enXco, the company proposing the wind farm near Quaking Aspen Mountain south of Rock Springs is aware of the development. The moratorium will not affect the proposed wind farms undergoing the Bureau of Land Management’s environmental impact statement process. For example, enXco doesn’t expect the BLM to issue an EIS for its wind farm until early next year, Bingham said.
Additionally, the permit previously approved for Tasco Engineering’s proposed wind farm was nullified when the new state laws were introduced. The state’s laws would have grandfathered completed wind projects and those under construction.
Once the moratorium is lifted and a wind farm permit eventually makes its way to the commissioners’ agenda, it could face stiff opposition from county residents.
Joe DeCorra presented the commissioner with a petition he and his friend Lonnie Miller brought to residents of Rock Springs. The petition contains the signatures of more than 800 residents against commercial wind farm development in Sweetwater County.
“We feel that this is a very good sampling as to the attitude of the residents of Sweetwater County,” DeCorra said.
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