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Legal challenges force delay in Wyoming wind farm project  

Credit:  By JEREMY PELZER Casper Star-Tribune, billingsgazette.com ~~

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A Utah wind developer announced Friday that it is delaying half of a planned $180 million-plus wind farm south of Glenrock because of ongoing appeals by an opposition landowners group.

Wasatch Wind of Park City, Utah, is planning to construct two separate but nearby 31-turbine sites along Mormon Canyon Road.

When completed, they’re expected to generate a combined 100 megawatts of power.

But Wasatch said in a media release that it will postpone completion of one of the turbine sites, Pioneer Wind Park I, until next year. Construction on the wind turbines had been planned to start this summer, according to Wasatch spokeswoman Michelle Stevens.

Wasatch said the delay comes because numerous legal challenges to the project by the Northern Laramie Range Alliance (NLRA) have made it impossible to start generating power on that site by October, forcing the company to break a power purchase agreement with Rocky Mountain Power.

Stevens said her company is now examining options with the utility, including drafting a new power purchase agreement.

The second wind farm site remains unaffected, Stevens said, as it’s under a different power purchase agreement that doesn’t require power generation to start until this December. By that time, she said, Wasatch hopes to have all the legal appeals resolved.

“Just as we’ve obtained the permits necessary for both projects and then prevailed in all the legal challenges to the projects thus far, we’re confident that the projects will move forward,” Stevens said in a statement. “However, at this time we simply feel it’s best to allow the legal process to play out before proceeding with construction.”

Some landowners near the location of the wind farms have strongly objected to them in hearings before both county and state officials.

They expressed concern about the turbines’ effect on property values, and the accompanying noise, visual pollution and damage to roads used during construction.

The NLRA has filed numerous challenges against the project along every step of the approval process. So far, none have been successful, but four appeals from the group are currently pending.

The Wyoming Industrial Siting Council and the Converse County Commission both previously approved permits for the wind farm, but those permits have been challenged by the NLRA on the grounds that Wasatch Wind hasn’t yet met an Industrial Siting Council requirement that the company show it is financially capable of building, running and eventually tearing down the wind farm.

A decision by the Wyoming Supreme Court on those cases is expected sometime after June, according to the Wasatch release.

The alliance also has appealed to a state court a Wyoming Public Service Commission decision that gave Wasatch more time – beyond the end of 2011 – to start delivering power from its project.

On Friday, Wasatch filed a motion to dismiss the suit because the power purchase agreement between Wasatch and RMP is no longer in effect.

And the NLRA petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this month to rehear claims, previously rejected, that Wasatch wrongly stated that the project is really two smaller facilities instead of a single project – a move that helped reach deals to sell its power.

The NLRA didn’t return multiple phone calls seeking comment Friday.

Source:  By JEREMY PELZER Casper Star-Tribune, billingsgazette.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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