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Albany County Commission Unanimously Approves Rail Tie Wind Project

Wind turbines on the prairie
Leigh Paterson
Inside Energy

The Rail Tie Wind Project is one step closer to construction after the Albany County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the project Tuesday.

ConnectGen, the developer, still has state and federal permits to acquire, but the commissioners' unanimous approval is a significant win for the company.

The project has received pushback for well over a year with concerns about how it will impact the viewshed of homeowners in the area. Opponents have also raised concerns about its impacts on birds and other wildlife, or cultural resources outside of Laramie.

Proponents for Rail Tie, though, highlight that it will likely bring a lot of tax revenue into Wyoming's poorest county — especially in the first couple of years as the company works to build 120 turbines across 26,000 acres.

Commissioner Sue Ibarra said she sympathizes with residents on both sides of the issue. But the tipping point for her was hearing from young people, frustrated by government inaction on the issue of climate change.

"Ultimately, as I said tonight, it really did come down to renewable resources and a commitment to make a change, to start doing something and not just talk about it," she said. "I do sympathize with those homeowners who will be having their views affected and impacted, but unfortunately, that wasn’t a big enough issue for me."

Some opponents of the project said Tuesday they might move out of Albany County following the commissioners' decision.

Susan Davis is one of many homeowners near Tie Siding who is upset about the commission's decision.

“We pay taxes for rural-residential here in Albany County and it's the commissioners' job to protect us,” Davis said. “And I feel that they have failed in that tonight with this decision.”

The Rail Tie project must still gain approval from the state's Industrial Siting Council and the federal NEPA permitting process, which will assess its environmental impact. If approved, construction could begin as early as mid-2022.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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