Citing delays from numerous legal challenges, Wasatch Wind Intermountain, LLC is applying to the state Industrial Siting Council for an extension of the permit deadline for its proposed Pioneer Wind Parks south of Glenrock.
Specifically, the company is asking for a 10-month extension of the July 18, 2013, deadline to meet Special Condition #19 requiring the company to provide evidence of sufficient financial resources to construct, maintain, operate, decommission and reclaim the facility.
Edison Mission Energy, the company that Wasatch Wind originally put forward to the ISC as the source of financing for its project, filed for bankruptcy protection last December.
In a letter to Industrial Siting Division Administrator Luke Esch dated May 3, Wasatch Wind President Christine Mikell, in asking for a revised deadline of May 18, 2014, said, “Wasatch Wind will demonstrate that good cause exists for the amendment of the permit and relies for this request upon the 17-month delay resulting from the District Court and Supreme Court appeals relating to its issuance.”
The company has faced a series of legal challenges, primarily from the Northern Laramie Range Alliance, a group describing itself as a citizen organization dedicated to protecting from large-scale industrial development the mountain areas of Albany, Converse and Natrona Counties in central Wyoming. Founded early in 2009, the NLRA claims more than 900 members. The group has fought Wasatch Wind since the project’s inception.
Pioneer I and Pioneer II, each containing 31 wind turbines capable of generating 50 megawatts of power, are planned for land in the Boxelder/Mormon Canyon area of the Laramie Range about 10 miles south of Glenrock.
The company received the approval for its county wind permit in May 2011, and the following month, the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council (ISC) voted 4-3 to approve a conditional permit for the project. The ISC gave its final approval for construction on July 21, 2011, with numerous conditions attached. The NLRA had argued that the company was wrongly granted permits to proceed with its plans.
In two separate civil suits, the NLRA 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 group 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.
District Judge Keith Kautz of the Court of the Eighth Judicial District on Jan. 19, 2012, ruled against the appeals filed by the NLRA. 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.”
In March 2012, the NLRA appealed the District Court ruling to the Wyoming Supreme Court. The next month, Wasatch announced that it was postponing construction of Pioneer I until 2013 due to delays caused by the numerous legal challenges to its plans. The company said that it would not be able to meet the deadline for delivering power in October 2012 under the first of its two 50-megawatt power purchase agreements (PPA) with Rocky Mountain Power and that the PPA had been terminated.
The company said at that time that it would begin construction of Pioneer II in the fall of 2012 in order to meet the terms of its second PPA with Rocky Mountain Power, which called for power delivery by the end of 2012.
The company later announced that it was putting a hold on all construction until the Supreme Court made its ruling.
The Wyoming Supreme Court issued its ruling last December upholding the District Court ruling in favor of Wasatch. In its decision, the Supreme Court said the county properly granted Wasatch’s permit and concluded that the ISC “acted within its authority, and there is sufficient evidence to justify its decision.”
After the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling, the company would only say that it was working to develop an updated construction schedule for its wind farm projects and that it would provide more information as it became available.
In her letter to Esch requesting the deadline extension, Mikell stated, “Wasatch Wind is mindful of its obligation to demonstrate sufficient financial resources prior to construction and remains committed to doing so. Wasatch Wind will update the construction schedule when it provides evidence of sufficient financial resources in accordance with the requested extension of May 18, 2014.
“Wasatch Wind is completely committed to bringing this project to fruition. All told, Wasatch Wind has spent 48 months and roughly $7.8 million to present this project, earn the approval of the Industrial Siting Council and the Converse County Commission, and have the decisions of these bodies affirmed by the Eighth Judicial District Court and the Wyoming Supreme Court.”
The Industrial Siting Council will meet at 10 a.m. on Monday June 24, 2013, to consider the company’s request for the extension.
The meeting will be held in Room B-63 of the Herschler Building, 122 West 25th Street in Cheyenne.
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