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Northern Laramie Range Alliance (NLRA) lost another battle in its effort to prevent Wasatch Wind from building its wind farms near Glenrock. On March 15, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled against NLRA’s petition to nullify the company’s self-certifications as qualifying facilities for small power production.
The company has two 50-megawatt power purchase agreements with Rocky Mountain Power and plans to build two 31-turbine wind farms in the Boxelder/Mormon Canyon area about 10 miles south of town. Each facility would be capable of generating more than 48 megawatts of electricity.
Construction is slated to begin this summer on the Pioneer Wind Park I and Pioneer Wind Park II facilities. The company expects completion by the end of the year.
NLRA filed a petition for declaratory order with FERC last summer requesting the commission to declare the company’s self-certifications as void and without effect, claiming that the two facilities constituted a single non-qualifying facility with total net capacity that exceeds the 80-megawatt size limitation for a small power production facility.
NLRA said that the company was “gaming” the system by declaring that the wind farms were two separate facilities.
The group said that Wasatch in other contexts had represented the two wind facilities as a single wind energy facility or, alternatively, a single wind farm. They argued that the two Wasatch facilities share a common interconnection to the grid and that Wasatch is pursuing a single site permit for the combined facilities.
NLRA, boasting nearly 900 citizen members, was formed in March 2009. It is opposed to industrial development in or near the mountains of the Laramie Range and has battled Wasatch Wind since the project’s inception.
Last May, Wasatch received approval from the Converse County Commission, and in June, the company received a conditional permit from the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council for the projects.
In July, the ISC gave its final approval for construction.
Both the county and the ISC rulings were challenged by NLRA and Northern Laramie Range Foundation. In separate suits, NLRA/NLRF argued 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.
On Jan. 19, Eighth District Judge Keith Kautz ruled against NLRA/NLRF. The groups have appealed that decision to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
NLRA also has appealed the Wyoming Public Service Commission’s ruling allowing the company to extend its power purchase agreements with Rocky Mountain Power. NLRA argues the terms of those agreements are less favorable to ratepayers than other sources. That appeal is pending in First District Court.
“As with the positive decisions we’ve received for other NLRA challenges, we’re pleased but not surprised,” Wasatch Wind Director of Communications Michelle Stevens said. “The law governing our status with FERC is clear, and we have followed the law. The claims by the NLRA that we are somehow ‘gaming the system’ are false, and now this is proven.”
NLRA Steering Committee member Ken Lay said, “We note that Wasatch in its response to our petition did not contest the facts, which showed that when it couldn’t get a power purchase agreement through Rocky Mountain Power’s normal process, it claimed that its large industrial facility was really two small plants. That obligated Rocky Mountain Power to purchase electricity at higher costs. It’s unfortunate that FERC appears to be condoning this behavior, even after condemning it in earlier regulatory proceedings.
“We are in the process of exploring our options to appeal the FERC decision.”
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