WIND TAKES CENTER STAGE…
Yesterday’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee heard from Rep. Tim Stubson and Sen. Drew Perkins on two of the four major wind energy related bills that will be introduced during this legislative session.
The bills are the result of the efforts of the Wind Energy Task Force that met four times during the interim–a task force that was co-chaired by Sen. Jim Anderson and Rep. Rodney Anderson.
It’s worth noting that the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s wildlife biologist Sophie Osborn and I attended each of the task force meetings. Sophie presented to the task force on a variety of wildlife issues and in particular offered important perspective on how wind energy could impact the sage-grouse. I have heard from several task force members that her contributions played a key role in their work.
HERE IS AN OVERVIEW OF THE BILLS
HB 0072 will give counties basic tools and authority for the siting and configuration of wind farm development. Counties can impose setback standards, decommissioning requirements and safety regulations. These tools can be used regardless of the size of a wind farm development. Counties will also be able to refer their concerns to the state through the Industrial Siting Council which in turn will be required to conduct a site review process which would include all the provisions mentioned above and also account for socioeconomic impacts of the development.
This bill, as it is written today, can be found at: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2010/Titles/HB0072.htm. Remember, though, that once successfully introduced, the bill may undergo amendment.
SF 0066, according to Senator Perkins, will expand and modify the authority of the Industrial Siting Council to better account for wind farm development. For example, rather than a “dollars invested” threshold that would trigger ISC review, any wind farm that exceeds 30 turbines must be reviewed by the Industrial Siting Council.
Senator Perkins acknowledged that the 30 turbine number was somewhat arbitrary and that there had been discussion about higher and lower numbers as a triggering mechanism. There is sure to be debate about this key provision. (By comparison, and according to today’s standards, a wind farm development would not be subject to ISC review unless it exceeded 56 turbines; clearly this is a step in the right direction but since wind farms can consume so much open space, it might be advisable to lower the threshold number even further.)
This bill can be seen at: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2010/Titles/SF0066.htm
We will see at least two more bills introduced this session about wind energy development. There are several ideas floating around about an excise tax (an idea supported by the governor). And there will be a bill dealing with eminent domain issues–the governor has proposed a one year moratorium on eminent domain while some legislators seem to be leaning toward excluding wind developers from ever being able to exercise that prerogative.
I will keep you posted on these and other bills. If any of our readers have ideas that they’d like to share, I hope you will get in touch with me by email, email@example.com. And finally, if you’re in Cheyenne, please look me up!
Contact: Richard Garrett, Jr., energy and legislative advocate, Wyoming Outdoor Council, 307-332-7031 x18; firstname.lastname@example.org.