Laramie County considers wind industry regulationsWritten by Jennifer Womack
By Jennifer Womack, WLR Managing Editor
Cheyenne – January 25 is the deadline for interested parties to submit their first round of comments on wind regulations being proposed for Laramie County.
“We are going to revise the regulations based on input I’ve already received,” says Laramie County Planner Gary Kranse. “We’ll be working on that through the end of February, then another comment period and we’ll try to get them back out to everybody in March and try to adopt final regulations in April.”
According to Kranse no wind farms have been permitted in the county to date. “We’re trying to make sure we’re taking care of the county roads. We certainly want to make sure we’re protecting adjacent property owners.”
“We did throw in some smaller energy systems, but we’re getting some feedback on how we should look at them differently,” says Kranse noting that the regulations are largely directed at large scale developments. Some county landowners have expressed concerns the regulations would encompass livestock water systems.
Cheyenne attorney Frank Falen questions the portion of the regulations that would require potential wind farms to meet the same regulatory criteria as subdivisions of land less than 35 acres. “I question the legality of it because they’re not dividing the land,” says Falen. “You’ll never know if you can have a wind farm until you’ve made all the right people happy,” he says noting his experience with often-subjective subdivision regulations.
Falen also says a portion of the regulations making landowners responsible for any damage done to county roads and reclamation of abandoned projects needs to be revisited. With infrastructure reaching into the millions, Falen says, “What could be debris to a developer could mean bankruptcy for a landowner forced to clean it up.” Falen says the need to protect roads and ensure clean up can be met through bonding requirements.
He says other provisions in the regulations, such as reclamation, are best left to landowner contracts. This allows landowners to have buildings and other infrastructure they might be able to use, left in place as the life of a project comes to an end.
Anemometers have been regulated in some counties, but aren’t part of the Laramie County regulations. Such regulations protect low flying-aircraft, such as that used in predator control, from hitting one of the data-collection towers. Anemometers are high enough to be a threat to low-flying aircraft, but not high enough to fall under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for marking.
While the regulations contain many items Falen says need to be in place, he supports revisions between now and the final version.
“We really want to make sure that whatever regulations we put in place meet the needs of citizens and landowners out there,” says Kranse noting the county’s desire for public input.
“We certainly want to look at large wind farms that want to come into the county,” says Kranse. “It’s a great energy source. It’s just a matter of addressing the impacts they have to the residents and county.”