Library filed under Energy Policy from Wyoming
Independent-minded Wyomingites have begrudgingly tolerated the heavy-handed use of eminent domain for decades, understanding that the state's economy rises and falls on energy exports. But recent scenarios plotting out the potential for wind energy development in this infamously windy state - and the power lines that may come with it - has triggered a call to action.
Freudenthal noted the visual impact that wind farms, as well as the transmission lines they require, will have on Wyoming's landscape, has been a major cause for concern with landowners and residents in the state. "We're having a different response to it entirely," he said, when comparing wind energy construction to other energy development ..."[People are] having a real problem with adjusting to the idea that the landscape is going to be visually different than it was in the past."
"The general consensus is we will be living in a carbon-constrained world, so it's best to prepare for it," said Rob Hurless, Freudenthal's energy adviser. "If you want to provide power to the California market, there's a clear standard there." Until there's a quantum leap forward in carbon capture for pulverized coal-fired power plants, America's existing fleet seems destined for a gradual retirement. Just how gradually the plants come off line will depend on how federal climate legislation is crafted.
TransCanada has signed agreements with three wind energy developers to supply power to the company's proposed $3 billion electrical transmission line that would run from Wyoming to the Southwest. ...TransCanada and other Wyoming wind interests have been concerned about recent actions by the California Public Utilities Commission that they believe could limit renewable energy produced outside of that state.
The California Public Utilities Commission recently adopted a measure that may have a negative effect on Wyoming's wind energy market. In March, the commission issued an order limiting the volume of tradable renewable energy credits that public utilities there can buy to meet California's renewable portfolio standard.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal on Tuesday evening kicked off the first of three community discussions about Wyoming's budding and controversial wind energy industry. The recent construction of hundreds of wind turbines have divided several communities between those who may benefit financially and those will only see their views disrupted.
Now, visualize row upon row of wind turbines on some of our most precious vistas and landscapes -- the Chugwater Bluffs, the Laramie Range, Elk Mountain, and the Upper North Platte River Valley. This is not the Wyoming we want. If we are not careful, this is the Wyoming we may get. The governor and Legislature have demonstrated good leadership on this issue. This needs to continue.
State lawmakers have determined that major industrial developments, including wind farms, warrant government scrutiny because of potential impacts beyond the land where they're located, be it private, state or federal. That's a sound policy. And because Wyoming's abundant wildlife is treasured by the state's people, it's appropriate that our wildlife management agency have a say in projects that could harm that valuable resource.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A proposal in Wyoming to impose the nation's first state excise tax on wind energy production is generating debate over how the state should handle the arrival of massive wind farms to its wind-swept plains and plateaus. Gov. Dave Freudenthal made the wind energy tax a centerpiece of his legislative agenda, drawing surprise and alarm from some in the state's fledgling wind industry.
Wyoming legislators presented two bills Wednesday that would establish statewide standards for wind energy development and expand county and state permitting authority over such development in the state. The Legislature's Joint Mineral Committee took no formal action on the proposals Wednesday morning because both bills were awaiting introductory approval in their chamber of origin.
The State Lands and Investments Board has drafted proposed rule changes regarding wind energy development on state lands. And it's hoping to receive a lot of public input over the next couple of months to make sure all stakeholders have their say. Written public comment will be accepted until 5 p.m. March 1, and there will be four public hearings across the state in March.
During the 2009 session, the Legislature allowed a sales tax exemption for wind projects to sunset, and lawmakers created a task force that worked through the summer to develop recommendations for regulating wind farms. ...Last month, the Joint Revenue Committee decided against sponsoring two bills that would have imposed generation taxes on wind energy. Gov. Dave Freudenthal had supported the concept of a wind tax.
Power producers have installed more than 500 megawatts of wind energy generation in Wyoming in the past year. One driver behind the wind boom presumably is action by other states in the West to require that utilities use certain percentages of renewable energy in their power supplies -- called renewable portfolio standards. ...That has many speculating whether renewable portfolio standards in other states are driving up rates in Wyoming, where there is no such requirement.
Wyoming's Wind Energy Task Force has delivered a 78-page report to state lawmakers outlining how the state and counties might regulate the fledgling wind energy industry. One of the toughest policy decisions for lawmakers may be how to offer counties some measure of control over wind development without superseding the authority of the state. "This is a matter of expressed powers.