The Albany County Planning and Zoning Commission plans to review the county’s wind energy regulations in its upcoming June 10 meeting. The decision came amid the outpouring of opposition from numerous county residents who oppose the Rail Tie Wind Project, a wind energy facility south of Laramie.
In February, after the wind project became more widely known, the project’s detractors appeared before the planning commission to encourage the commission to put a moratorium on wind energy development.
The moratorium was proposed in order to allow the commission time to examine the county’s wind energy development regulations and make changes. The existing regulations were adopted in March 2009.
Ultimately, the planning board chose not to put a moratorium on wind energy development because they did not have a well enough stated purpose for a moratorium.
“Without defining a substantial eminent problem that will have potential impacts to public health and safety and welfare of the county, it would be hard to support a moratorium,” Albany County Planner David Gertsch said in a March planning commission meeting.
In the same meeting, Gertsch told the commission that the current wind energy regulations of Albany County are comprehensive and match those of others throughout the country.
While the commission chose not to place a moratorium on wind energy development, it still expressed that it is important to review the regulations.
“During those meetings, it was my understanding that the commission declined to take up the issue of a moratorium but did promise that there would be some regulation review,” local attorney Mitchell Edwards said at the commission’s May 13 meeting.
Edwards spoke on behalf of approximately 60 separate landowners, many of whom spoke in support of the moratorium and review of the regulations in the February commission meeting.
“What we would like to do is ask you to put the follow-through on that promise and put as an agenda item for the June meeting ‘wind reform updates’ for those regulations.”
Edwards reminded the commission of the wind energy facility permitting authority the Wyoming Legislature gave counties in 2010. He said that is the most authority the Legislature has given the counties in terms of regulating anything.
“Part of that reasoning is because it is such a local issue and affects local people much greater than everything else,” Edwards said. He added that the county cannot regulate things like mining and water quality, “but it does have the authority to fully permit and regulate wind energy facilities.”
Edwards said that while the county’s regulations are similar to those of other counties, they are still deficient in lining up with state statute that requires a county’s wind energy rules and regulations regarding notice to record owners of mineral rights conform to the Industrial Siting Council’s rules.
“Right now, if you look at the county regulations, what’s required with respect to notice to mineral right owners, is simply one publication in the newspaper,” Edwards said.
The Industrial Siting Council’s regulations require the project applicant’s notice to record owners of mineral rights be mailed by first class mail to all record owners, that the notice be published in the newspaper twice and that the notice and details of steps taken to notify those people is entered in the record.
“So right from the get-go, the county regulations as they currently stand today are deficient and the county has no authority to issue any permits because they have not adopted rules and regulations that comply with the rules and regulations for notices to mineral owners,” Edwards said.
Following Edwards’s comments, many of the residents who had attended previous meetings regarding wind energy development expressed support for Edwards and for the regulations to appear on the June agenda.
Planning Member Keith Kennedy then moved to put the regulation review on the agenda, as well as direct the county attorney to make comment on which part of the regulations are not in compliance with state statute.
All planning members who were present at the meeting voted in favor of the motion.
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