CFACT Takes On Big Wind

Photo Credit: Greg Johnson | Cowboy State Daily, used with permission

The people of Wyoming have been in a contentious fight with wind developers and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding proposals by Rock Creek Wind to construct new windmills in the state. Recently CFACT Driessen Fellow Maggie Immen from the University of Wyoming entered the fray. 

Donning an eagle costume, the economics and mathematics major joined a crowd of fellow Wyoming citizens at a town hall meeting of the Wyoming Public Service Commission in Cheyenne to make their voices heard in opposition of plans to erect additional windmills in an area conservationists deem important bird habitat. 

Maggie gave pointed testimony about the irreparable harm existing windmills have already caused to native eagle populations (one wind farm was recently fined several million dollars for killing bald eagles, according to local activist Anne Brande) as well as the local consumers and how additional units would exacerbate the problem. Rocky Mountain Power is seeking major rate increases of 30% in part to pay for these renewable projects, and it has met with considerable citizen opposition during the hearings.

In addition, through legal pushback from CFACT’s allies at the Albany County Conservancy, the BLM temporarily reversed its prior decision allowing for wind transmission lines to be constructed in that portion of the state until public comment is properly garnered. 

You can read Maggie’s comments in their entirety below. 

“My name is Maggie Immen. I am a college student attending University of Wyoming. I originally moved here from California to escape the recorded birds and exorbitant prices to come here where there is unobstructed views, protected wildlife, and a more affordable life. 

Electric bills are already to a point that many people can barely afford it. My roommates themselves struggle month to month being full time college students with jobs in order to afford rent and utilities. The cost hike that is being proposed is simply not something that so many of my fellow students can afford. If our electric bills rise by the proposed average of 29.2%, there will be countless college students unable to afford it. I can only speak so far about small business owners of Wyoming since I can only look at data and first-hand testimony but I can confidently speak on college students. The greatest appeal for attending the University of Wyoming is the cost. Most other colleges have higher tuition and higher living costs. However, it appeals in different ways for out-of-state students. I had the option of attending University of Nevada, Reno at a much lower cost but decided against it due to the draw of Wyoming. There are diminishing returns when costs such as the electric bills rise by such an amount. 

Not only is the cost exorbitant, but the windmills that are creating this power are killing eagles and damaging our ecosystem. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is underestimating the number of eagles killed every year by these wind turbines. The total bald eagles legally killed annually by wind farms would be 28.2% of the population in this area. I escaped California where wind turbines and other projects destroyed their nesting areas. Now I see Wyoming wanting to go in the same direction and personally? That scares me. It worries me because I do not want to live in a concrete jungle, but rather want to live in what I came to Wyoming for: open spaces, true wildlife, and a lack of recorded birds.

After college, I want to remain in Wyoming and create a family here but that is becoming less of a reality with these costs and the threat to eagles and wildlife as a whole. “

Cover photo used with permission of photographer Greg Johnson of Cowboy State Daily.