Articles filed under Energy Policy from Wyoming
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.
As developers pursue the construction of wind farms in Wyoming, some questions linger about the nature of wind rights and how they relate to land ownership. Wyoming lawyers generally agree that whoever owns the surface of the land also owns the rights to develop wind resources. But the Wyoming Legislature has not addressed whether landowners can sever wind resources from their property, as state law allows for mineral resources.
Now is the time for you to prove to the people of Wyoming if you really care about the scenic beauty of Wyoming. The wind farm rage is coming. I have been to your wind symposium in Laramie and to the task force meeting in Casper this past week. I have heard so much talk about sage grouse, and state taxes being imposed on a 100 percent tax subsidized industry that I feel Ill!
There will be a time when future generations look back at the challenges we are addressing today regarding the development of our wind resources. They will compare our actions to those of our predecessors who dealt with the coal boom of the 1970s, and numerous other development peaks in our state's history. Here's the test: Will we have created an environment where people look upon wind turbines as a point of progress and something positive for the state, or will people look at what we did and see the monsters that Don Quixote saw in windmills?
Transmitting electricity over hundreds of miles to market constrains wind energy development, speakers told 600 participants at a conference at the University of Wyoming last week. So do local, state and federal regulation; and taxation issues, they said. But Laura Ladd, energy economics advisor to Gov. Dave Freudenthal, noted a major omission to that list. "Nowhere in here did we hear of economics as a constraint," Ladd said.
The symposium will also create perspectives for the legislative branches to drum up new laws, along with revenues for Wyoming. In turn the trade-off will be right-of-way easements and more access to state and federal land. Wyoming Wind Corridors will produce the energy, and like all that is produced here, that energy will be sent out on the National Electrical Grid system. Each company online will receive a cut of the Wyoming wind energy pie. Therefore once again Wyoming residents will hold out the coffers' bags, getting the least for the best Wyoming has to offer.
A task force of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association is recommending a new state law to create county regulations for wind energy development, even in counties without zoning. Participants in the association's Industrial Siting and Wind Energy Task Force discussed their proposals Friday during the Wyoming Wind Symposium at the University of Wyoming. More than 600 people registered for the two-day event, which was hosted by Gov. Dave Freudenthal.
Wyoming's recent rush on wind power led by utility giant Rocky Mountain Power could settle out during the next year and not pick up again until major new power lines begin connecting to the state in 2014. But even that's not a given. "Good luck getting financed," said Nate Sandvig, project manager for Horizon Wind Energy. Wind proponents say credit markets make it difficult for independent generators and transmission companies to get into the game.
The influx of wind developers to Wyoming has strained the balance of competing development interests for state-owned trust lands, officials from the state and various industries said Thursday. The Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments hosted a forum at Casper College to discuss how compatible wind farms can be with agriculture, mining, and oil and gas development.
A decision to block wind energy development from key sage grouse habitats in Wyoming could effectively nullify a significant portion of the state's wind energy resource. But exactly how much is unclear. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the sage grouse as a threatened and endangered species. Half of the bird's remaining prime habitat in the West lies within Wyoming's borders.
There may be a place for local decision-making on wind farm siting, but the situation now is confusing for wind developers. Throw in the fact that wind turbines on federal land require additional analysis and approval by the Bureau of Land Management, and you have multiple levels of permitting that most certainly contain some inconsistencies.
The mining industry must fight the federal climate legislation Congress is now considering and seek investment in carbon capture technology, National Mining Association President Hal Quinn said Thursday. Quinn addressed the Wyoming Mining Association convention in Laramie.
New Interior Secretary Ken Salazar went overboard when he said Monday that windmills off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, of the coal-fired power plants in the country. ...it's impractical to think that the coal-fired power industry -- which supplies about half of the nation's electricity -- could be displaced by wind turbines.
The Albany County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to delay until at least Jan. 6 their decision on passing a set of commercial wind energy regulations. Commissioners Pat Gabriel, Tim Chesnut and Jerry Kennedy agreed to table their decision on a motion to approve county wind energy regulations because of public comments that the planning and attorney's offices have yet to review.