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New wind rules

Campbell County now has zoning regulations for wind farms, but the rules may not apply to the company planning to build the first wind farm in the county.

Campbell County now has zoning regulations for wind farms, but the rules may not apply to the company planning to build the first wind farm in the county.

After postponing a vote twice to further discuss the ordinance with Third Planet Windpower, the County Commission voted to pass emergency wind zoning regulations Wednesday in a 4-1 to one vote.

Third Planet does not like the bonding requirement stipulated in the rules - the financial assurance for decommissioning and reclamation if the company abandons the wind farm.

The new county rules require an upfront payment of the bond like other energy industries in Campbell County have to pay. Third Planet says its wind farm will be in place for a minimum of 25 years and postponing the bond for 15 years is similar to requirements in other areas of Wyoming.

Commissioner Amir Sancher voted against the new rules because he thought it would give the impression Campbell County is "anti-alternative energy."

"I want to encourage the alternative energy, but at the same time protect the landowner, the county and everyone else," Sancher said.

Sancher said he would have liked the wind farm developers speak with him personally about the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Campbell County now has zoning regulations for wind farms, but the rules may not apply to the company planning to build the first wind farm in the county.

After postponing a vote twice to further discuss the ordinance with Third Planet Windpower, the County Commission voted to pass emergency wind zoning regulations Wednesday in a 4-1 to one vote.

Third Planet does not like the bonding requirement stipulated in the rules - the financial assurance for decommissioning and reclamation if the company abandons the wind farm.

The new county rules require an upfront payment of the bond like other energy industries in Campbell County have to pay. Third Planet says its wind farm will be in place for a minimum of 25 years and postponing the bond for 15 years is similar to requirements in other areas of Wyoming.

Commissioner Amir Sancher voted against the new rules because he thought it would give the impression Campbell County is "anti-alternative energy."

"I want to encourage the alternative energy, but at the same time protect the landowner, the county and everyone else," Sancher said.

Sancher said he would have liked the wind farm developers speak with him personally about the company's financial strength and the bond prior to a vote on new rules. He didn't think there had been enough communication between the County Commission and the developer before the vote.

The other commissioners agreed there was ample discussion with the company about all of the issues and that was the reason for the two previous delays in the vote, which postponed the new rules about a month.

"They've worked with each draft (of the zoning rules) that have come out and they were given the final draft," Commissioner Chris Knapp said. "I don't know if they have responded to the final draft, but they have had plenty opportunity (to work with the county)."

The emergency rule vote allows the wind regulations to take effect immediately while the new regulations go out for public comment, but Campbell County's new wind farm rules are far from law.

Third Planet Windpower is planning to develop a 100-turbine, 150-megawatt wind farm along Highway 50 south of Wright at a cost of about $300 million. A project of that size is regulated by the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council and not the county. The Siting Council will accept recommendations from local governments, but only it can enforce regulations on the developer.

The Siting Council will determine whether to issue Third Planet a permit to build the wind farm and if so, what conditions to include in the permit following a hearing Tuesday in Wright. As it stands, the Siting Council is asking for an upfront bond, but it is much smaller than Campbell County would like.

Campbell County planned to present its newly passed regulations, including its bonding requirement, to the Siting Council at a hearing, but Third Planet objected to the regulations being introduced and the hearing examiner, who will run the hearing, supported that objection.

Campbell County Deputy Attorney Carol Seeger said the county still can present testimony about the regulations, but the hearing examiner indicated the actual zoning rules would "just confuse the council and muddy the water."

"It doesn't really make any sense to me why they can hear testimony about our regulations, but they can't actually see them," Seeger said. "It seems to me that as a party to the process, what Campbell County's proposed or actual regulations would be extremely relevant."

Charlie Karustis, spokesman for Third Planet Windpower, said that the hearing officer ruled the law that authorized the adoption of county wind regulations excludes Third Planet's wind farm application because it was submitted before July 1.

"The statute specifically said any applications put in before that date were exempt," Karustis said.

Third Planet has been working closely with Campbell County and will continue to coordinate with the county to develop a rule that addresses the county's goals for responsible development, regardless of this issue, Karustis said.

Commissioner Dan Coolidge, who likely will testify at the hearing on the county's behalf, also was disappointed by Third Planet's objection.

"I am disappointed that after we did everything we could to accommodate them, they took the stance they did at the Industrial Siting Council," Coolidge said.

The county plans to bring forward two witnesses to testify. Third Planet has identified at least five witnesses it will call Tuesday, including representatives from its development, construction and executive teams, as well as representatives from its environmental consulting and legal firms to testify at the hearing.

Campbell County is willing to concede regulation can only be by the Industrial Siting Council, but wants its say.

"We feel what we should be allowed to do is make our pitch to the Industrial Siting Council to have our concerns addressed and added to the permit conditions," Seeger said.

The Siting Council hearing is expected to only be one day starting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Wright Hotel, but a second day is scheduled in case the hearing runs long.


Source: http://www.gillettenewsreco...

JUL 10 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27143-new-wind-rules
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