The Converse County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing regarding the moratorium proposed by the Northern Laramie Range Alliance at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Converse County Courthouse in Douglas.
The alliance previously persuaded the planning and zoning commission to recommend to the Converse County Commission an immediate 30-day moratorium, but the commission declined. Alliance organizers now say they’ve refined their request to apply the moratorium to a certain elevation threshold limited only to the mountainous area south and west of Interstate 25 in Converse County.
“The only place the (alliance) is concerned with is in the mountains. The (alliance) has never been against wind development in Converse County,” said alliance organizer Diemer True.
The Northern Laramie Range Alliance says it wants to protect the agriculture, wildlife, landscape and recreation in the area from “chaotic and uncontrolled energy and transmission development,” according to the group’s Web site.
But several other landowner groups have formed in recent years across central and eastern Wyoming — including the northern Laramie Range — to promote wind energy development as a way to earn supplemental income.
Wind energy advocate landowner groups such as the Renewable Energy Alliance of Landowners also say they intend to conserve agriculture, wildlife, landscape and recreation opportunities by earning extra income from wind development.
“We do not want this special interest group to be able to pre-empt our hard work and struggle to continue to keep longtime ranchers on the land by putting up a notice to industry that we are not available in this county,” Walker Creek Wind Energy Inc. Chairman Terry Henderson wrote in a letter to the Casper Star-Tribune.
They say without the extra income, many ranching operations would be forced to sell off parcels of land that would likely be developed into rural neighborhoods — a much more erosive type of impact on Wyoming’s wildlife and open landscape.
County officials say they are stuck in the middle, and must carefully wade through the controversy with an eye toward following procedures and not getting sued.
“This isn’t about pro-wind, anti-wind, or anything else. This is about procedure,” said Converse County Commission Chairman Ed Werner.
Werner said he will not pre-empt the planning and zoning commission. The current moratorium proposal is before the planning and zoning commission only, and that commission alone will make its own decision.
It can decline the moratorium proposal, or make a recommendation to the Converse County Commission with or without modifications.
Werner said that of the previous moratorium proposals that have reached the commission to date, none have made the case that there’s such a large pending wind development to warrant such action — at least, not to the satisfaction of the commission’s legal counsel.
“We’ve been told that there’s a high likelihood — if we put in a moratorium — we’d be sued. We’ve been warned that such an action is very heavy-handed,” Werner said.