Committee reviews Wyoming wind energy issues
At the 2011 Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Summer Convention held in Laramie this year, various committees met to discuss the topics that affect Wyoming agriculturalists the most.
In the Private and State Lands Committee, discussion included new policy and the opinions of landowners in Niobrara County, but the emphasis of the committee and the most time-consuming issue was wind energy development in Wyoming and landowners’ rights.
Wyoming Representative Kermit Brown explained many different aspects of the wind energy industry, including two bills he sponsored in the State Legislature for further development of the industry.
“Our committee was so divided and we could never really decide on a consensus, so eventually we produced a recommendation at a five to four vote, which is nothing resoundingly sturdy,” said Brown. “Because of this, I sponsored two bills in the Legislature just so all members of the State Legislature would be able to discuss what we’d reviewed in our committee.”
While the wind energy industry has boomed across the state as the next big energy source, a primary concern shared by many landowners is eminent domain, which can leave them feeling trapped in agreements.
“The first bill repealed the right of eminent domain for certain systems,” said Brown of his legislation. “It just wouldn’t exist. That way the landowners who would have to host various transport systems would have more flexibility with which to bargain and negotiate with the various companies.”
Brown’s initial bill gave landowners a freedom and renewed sense of comfort when dealing with big name companies. However, because the energy companies contribute to the state’s economy through taxes, Brown’s second bill helped give them some leeway.
“The second bill relates to situations when developers have projects and can make a fair trade. As long as the developers have 85 percent of their projects provided for between monetary means and previous land contracts, they then have an opportunity to present before a court of law their pleas to obtain the last 15 percent of the project through eminent domain,” explained Brown. “This bill was negotiable as far as the figures go, but the fundamental idea is that the developers had to do at least 85 percent of the work without the threat of eminent domain affecting or swaying the landowner’s decisions.”
Brown said the importance of successful partnerships between landowners and developers cannot be stressed enough.
“For the wind energy industry to be successful, the landowners have to be happy with the developers just as much as the developers need to be understood and cooperative,” he said.
“We want this to go back to bargains that can take place at the kitchen table. We want landowners and developers to find a meeting point where both parties can barter and are content with the outcome of the deal. Most importantly, they can do this without our outside interference,” he added.