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Sweetwater County extends wind farm moratorium

A Wyoming county extended its moratorium on new wind farms Tuesday, lengthening a hold that has lasted more than a year.

The Sweetwater County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday extended its moratorium on wind farm development by three months, to September. The board first implemented the measure in February 2012.

The move shouldn’t hamper any wind power projects; a company with a project on the drawing board actually requested the extension, a representative says.

The county first passed a moratorium to give staff time to draw up wind farm regulations, a requirement to fall in line with state laws. But the county’s rules are as of yet unfinished, and the moratorium was set to expire in late June.

“This extension was bound to happen,” Commissioner John Kolb, liaison to the county Planning and Zoning Department, said Monday. “We’ve run out of time.”

The extension is at least the second agreed to by the commissioners. The board voted in December to extend the moratorium to June 2013.

But the moratorium is unlikely to delay any projects in the county, as most wind power developers await new transmission lines planned to cross the state. Wyoming added no new wind facilities statewide in 2012.

Commissioner Reid West said Monday he isn’t aware of any companies that plan to develop a project in Sweetwater County within a year.

A representative of one company that is looking to develop wind power projects in the county said he doesn’t mind the ongoing delays.

EDF project developer Alan Cowan said his company requested the moratorium be extended so the county can further refine its proposed rules.

EDF is developing the 40-turbine Quaking Aspen wind facility just south of Rock Springs. The project would be operational by 2018 at the earliest, so a temporary moratorium wouldn’t have any affect on the company’s plans.

“The moratorium was set to expire, so as a result of our request, the moratorium needed to be extended,” Cowan said. “We’re completely fine with that.”

The rules will address noise, setbacks from property lines and the county’s interaction with state wind farm regulators, among other things.

The extended moratorium will give county staff the time needed to finalize a draft of the rules, which would then undergo a possibly lengthy adoption and public comment process.

Kolb said no one from the public commented at the meeting Tuesday.