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Put limits on wind development

Land use regulation almost always triggers property-rights objection. In this case, a vocal minority of the eight landowners that have signed with the promoter assert that their "private property rights" should let them force industrial development into the Northern Laramie Range. This is nonsense. The U.S. Supreme Court settled the issue nearly a century ago: Reasonable restriction on land use, established through appropriate public process, is not a "taking" of private property.

No one seriously has suggested shutting down the wind energy industry in Converse County. More than three-quarters of the county's 4,265 square miles are in the high plains, thinly settled and away from both population centers and the mountains. Landowners in these areas of the county can partner with wind energy firms without materially diminishing the quality of life of the community, or undermining the potential of that quality of life to attract a diverse array of businesses offering the high-paying jobs that keep young people in the community.

While the contribution of industrial wind facilities to the overall economy isn't significant (Rocky Mountain Power's wind farm at Glenrock employs nine or 10, mostly at around $18 per hour, and property tax revenues -- seemingly high at first -- decline rapidly with depreciation), they have enabled a few high-plains landowners to earn more current income per acre than otherwise would have been the case.

Unfortunately, another and altogether different wind-energy proposal is in the works: A small Utah firm -- financed by a "clean tech" venture capitalist on the wealthy "Main Line" west of Philadelphia (no wind turbines... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

No one seriously has suggested shutting down the wind energy industry in Converse County. More than three-quarters of the county's 4,265 square miles are in the high plains, thinly settled and away from both population centers and the mountains. Landowners in these areas of the county can partner with wind energy firms without materially diminishing the quality of life of the community, or undermining the potential of that quality of life to attract a diverse array of businesses offering the high-paying jobs that keep young people in the community.

While the contribution of industrial wind facilities to the overall economy isn't significant (Rocky Mountain Power's wind farm at Glenrock employs nine or 10, mostly at around $18 per hour, and property tax revenues -- seemingly high at first -- decline rapidly with depreciation), they have enabled a few high-plains landowners to earn more current income per acre than otherwise would have been the case.

Unfortunately, another and altogether different wind-energy proposal is in the works: A small Utah firm -- financed by a "clean tech" venture capitalist on the wealthy "Main Line" west of Philadelphia (no wind turbines there!) -- is working to put an industrial-scale facility on the high plateau in the Boxelder-Mormon Canyon area of the Northern Laramie Range. The proposal is for 66 or more turbines across roughly 30,000 acres of mountain country.

In most of the world, a project like this would be a nonstarter: Putting such a facility in Converse

County's mountains is like putting it in the Tetons or, perhaps, the Potomac River behind the Lincoln Memorial. Communities routinely put areas like this off-limits to industrial development. Landowners and developers routinely move their projects to other areas where the activity is appropriate and supported by the public -- in this case, Converse County's high plains. This even can be profitable for the landowners, since land prices in the protected areas -- again, as in the mountain country in Converse County -- often are far higher than in neighboring areas appropriate for industrial development.

Even so, land use regulation almost always triggers property-rights objection. In this case, a vocal minority of the eight landowners that have signed with the promoter assert that their "private property rights" should let them force industrial development into the Northern Laramie Range. This is nonsense.

The U.S. Supreme Court settled the issue nearly a century ago: Reasonable restriction on land use, established through appropriate public process, is not a "taking" of private property. Wyoming law enables counties to do exactly this, and the Legislature in the last session mandated that they do so in connection with wind development.

An even smaller minority of the landowners that have signed with the promoter tells us we should tolerate industrialization of the mountains so they can "stay on the land" and "keep the family in ranching." This is especially cynical and offensive: The reason the public supports traditional ranching is that it preserves open space. Industrial wind development does just the opposite: It fundamentally and permanently alters open space. With its 400-foot towers, blinking strobes, roads, transmission lines and substations, industrial wind ruins open space even more surely than the 40-acre "ranchettes" and "rural sprawl" about which we've heard so much. The wind-bewitched landowners in the Boxelder-Mormon Canyon area surely know this, but the prospect of all that royalty-check income seems to have obscured even this obvious point.

We owe it to ourselves and our children to ensure that Converse County protects the mountains from the threat posed by industrial-scale wind development. The solution is simple, and the Northern Laramie Range Alliance repeatedly has proposed it: No industrial development over $10 million in the mountains south and west of I-25. More than 800 citizen petitions (a staggering number in this kind of situation) and the county's own survey (delivered this month to the Converse County Planning & Zoning Commission) demonstrate the overwhelming support for this solution. It's time for the Converse County Board of County Commissioners to act accordingly.

Bret Frye and Sharon Rodeman work for the Northern Laramie Range Alliance Steering Group, a citizen organization formed in the spring of 2009 to prevent the industrialization of the Northern Laramie Mountains. It has more than 800 members.


Source: http://trib.com/news/opinio...

AUG 1 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27521-put-limits-on-wind-development
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