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Wasatch Wind seeks permit delay for planned Glenrock wind farm

A Utah wind company is asking a state board for more time to prove it can fund its planned wind power project near Glenrock, claiming a series of legal challenges have slowed its progress by more than a year.

Wasatch Wind formally asked the Wyoming Industrial Siting Commission for 10 more months to meet a condition of its state permit that requires the company to prove it can fund the construction, operation and eventual demolition of its 62-turbine, 100-megawatt Pioneer Wind Park project south of Glenrock.

Company president Christine Mikell told the Star-Tribune Friday that the project’s long-term health is sound.

“We’re very committed to the project, the residents of Converse County, and getting that project done,” she said.

Under the existing permit, the company has to prove it can fund all aspects of the project by July. An extension would give the company until May 2014 to do so.

Edison Mission Energy, a financial partner in the project, filed for bankruptcy in December.

In an early May letter to the commission, Mikell wrote that her company needed more time because of the nearly year-and-a-half legal battle waged by one south Wyoming group.

“Wasatch Wind is completely committed to bringing this project to fruition,” Mikell wrote in the letter, dated May 3.

When asked how the legal issues surrounding the project affected the schedule, Mikell first opted not to comment.

Then she said, “The project would have been built already.”

The Northern Laramie Range Alliance, a Casper group that opposes large-scale development in central Wyoming, has repeatedly taken issue with the approval process for the project.

The group filed one motion saying that the ISC improperly approved the company’s plan for multiple reasons, including that it had yet to prove it could fund the project. The group took its case all the way to the Wyoming Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the project in December.

The alliance, in an emailed statement, reaffirmed its stance in opposition to the approval. The alliance said the project is yet to be financially proven, and noted Edison’s bankruptcy.

“Under these circumstances, it would be entirely inappropriate for the ISC to extend this permit,” the alliance wrote.

Luke Esch is the administrator of the Industrial Siting Division. Although he’s not a voting commissioner, Esch said Wasatch’s extension request will have to be voted on by the commission at its next meeting in June.

“The applicant has to demonstrate it will not significantly add to adverse impact in the area,” Esch said.

Along with the extension, Mikell wrote in her letter that Wasatch will also update the commission on its construction schedule for the project. A permit on file from July 2011 says that the company must commence construction within three years of the document’s issuance.

Mikell said she isn’t yet sure of what the construction schedule will look like.

“We have to start by 2014,” she said. “It’s all based on what we learn” at the meeting.