Library from Wyoming
Wildlife conservationists and energy developers alike found some encouragement in Friday's announcement that the sage grouse won't be listed as a threatened or endangered species. Many agreed that such a listing would have had a chilling effect on the agriculture and minerals industries, which are the foundation of Wyoming's economy.
Wyoming will have more authority over the siting and development of wind farms and the state will begin taxing wind energy production under bills that Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed into law on Friday. The $1 per megawatt hour tax on wind energy generated in the state goes into effect in 2012. The wind industry fought the tax bill unsuccessfully this session.
At a meeting Tuesday, Sweetwater County Commissioner Randy Walker may very well have echoed the feelings many local residents have about Teton Winds, LLC, proposed wind farm on White Mountain. "I don't think most people are against wind farms in general," Walker said. " It's just where this one is proposed. It's location, location, location."
Dr. Jason A. Lillegraven aimed to have a day in court to protest PacifiCorp's Dunlap Ranch wind energy project. He's not going to get it. Wade Waldrip, Carbon County District Court judge, ruled to dismiss Lillegraven's petition for judicial review in a decision letter filed Monday in District Court.
Commercial wind farms can extend over thousands of acres, often on federal land, and require some new skills for permitting, So the Renewable Energy Coordination Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was created ...to smooth the permitting process for wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
A Utah company has submitted a permit application to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to build a commercial wind farm on federal land in western Natrona County, the agency's Casper field manager said. "This is the first one we're permitting," Joe Meyer told the Natrona County commissioners at a work session last week.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who made the wind tax a priority of his legislative agenda, intends to sign the bill, a spokesman said. Lawmakers amended the tax as it passed through the House, and both chambers passed the proposal with at least two-thirds support. The bill would impose a $1-per-megawatt-hour excise tax on wind energy production and split the revenues 60-40 between counties and the state.
The Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments has drawn up rules for wind development leasing on state land, partly to help reduce potential conflicts between wind development and other uses such as mining, drilling and ranching. The office is charged with managing about 3.6 million acres of state trust land for beneficiaries including public schools. The office is taking written comment on its proposed rules until Monday and plans public hearings in mid-March in Casper, Green River, Rawlins and Cheyenne.
The developer of a proposed wind farm on White Mountain has scaled back the probable number of wind turbines in favor of a larger turbine size for the project. If fully built, as few as 185 wind turbines could be constructed on scenic White Mountain instead of the 237 under study by federal administrators, company officials said Wednesday night during a public meeting.
Judy Mattinson expressed horror at the idea of spoiling the "sweet, peaceful viewshed" of the escarpment with wind turbines. "I can't see how you can move forward without impacting the beauty" of the area, she said. "The damage will irrevocable and unavoidable. "Anybody who has not visited the mountain in the spring and seen the wildflowers ... can't know how beautiful it is," she continued. "And it won't be that way again."
With currents of powerful wind gusts whipping across its plains and plateaus, Wyoming has become a new frontier for the wind industry - the latest energy development for a state that only recently experienced a natural gas boom.
A lot of Westerners are watching whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is about to pursue Endangered Species Act protection for the greater sage grouse. A finding is expected by week's end and the oil and gas, livestock and wind energy industries _ to name the bigger interests concerned _ all have an enormous stake in whatever the agency decides.
With the 2010 legislative budget session half over, all four of Gov. Dave Freudenthal's wind energy proposals are still alive -- albeit, in some cases, significantly altered. But the outcome of the bills is still far from certain as they move through the Legislature. The most controversial proposal, House Bill 101, would impose an excise tax on wind energy produced in the state. If passed, it would be the first such tax in the nation.
A proposed excise tax on wind energy in Wyoming was improved by the House Revenue Committee, which trimmed it by two-thirds and delayed the tax's implementation by a year. Both moves should help allay critics' fears that such a tax will make the fledgling industry choose other states to build wind turbine projects.
Wyoming House of Representatives gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill that would impose the nation's first state excise tax on wind energy generation. ...Supporters said Wyoming should levy a wind generation tax to provide revenue for state and county governments and to provide regulatory certainty for the burgeoning wind industry.
The councilors voted to send a letter of support for the Hermosa West Wind Energy project to the Western Area Power Administrator (WAPA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, at a regular meeting Tuesday. The letter mentions potential impacts to the property owners' view sheds but expresses support for the potential economic benefits of the project.
The Joint Revenue Committee voted Monday morning to cut the proposed excise tax on wind energy from $3 per megawatt hour to $1 per megawatt hour. Committee members also voted not to collect any taxes until 2012 -- rather than 2011 as initially suggested -- and to not impose any excise taxes on a wind turbine until its third year of operation.
The law still weighs heavily in favor of industry and against landowners. The fact is, in Wyoming it's still not just the government that can take private land -- private companies can as well. And it's not just for major power lines, roads and other things that can be construed as benefiting the general public. Improving a company's bottom line can be reason enough. In the past couple of years, a new wrinkle has been added to the eminent domain debate: wind energy.
Poor wind farmers, they say if they are taxed it will kill their industry. I say so be it, let it wither and die, the wind industry is so heavily subsidized that it cannot stand on its own. We do not have state income tax, because oil, gas, and coal pay so much in taxes. Wind energy equals higher taxes, does that make anyone feel better?
Idaho and the federal government have signed an agreement that offers incentive and protection for ranchers and landowners who voluntarily take conservation steps to improve the plight of the sage grouse. ...Todd Tucci, attorney for Advocates for the West, said the bigger challenge is dealing with sage grouse habitat on public land, where wind energy development, oil and natural gas drilling and cattle grazing pose thornier policy questions.