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Albany County Conservancy issues complaint against the Bureau of Land Management

Wind turbines stand on the horizon, on a sagebrush landscape, against a blue sky.
Power Company of Wyoming

On July 28, the Albany County Conservancy issued a complaint against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The complaint alleges that the BLM failed to appropriately involve the public before approving part of the Rock Creek Wind Gen-Tie Transmission Line.

In March of this year, The BLM approved the construction of 4.7 miles of the transmission line, which is planned to be 38.1 miles long in total. If it’s completed, the 230 Kilovolt transmission line will transfer power from the Rock Creek Wind Energy Center in Albany County to the Aeolus Substation in Carbon County.

The complaint states that since the BLM didn’t hold a public comment period before giving its approval, it is in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA was passed in 1970, and it was intended to ensure that federal agencies considered the environmental effects of their actions. One way it does that is by requiring federal agencies, in some cases, to consult the public, which might hold more knowledge of the local environment.

“When you have a public process, when you have an environmental assessment, that is supposed to be information, the public is supposed to be notified,” says Anne Brande. “And there was never any public notification. And then not only that, but there was no public comment period. That's extremely upsetting.”

Brande lives in Laramie and is the founder of the Albany County Conservancy, which is composed of private landowners in the county. She believes not holding a public comment period increases the chances that the transmission line could harm the environment.

“Why isn't it a public process when it's supposed to be?” she asked. “Why can't we talk about mitigation? Why can't we talk about best practices? Why can't we talk about how to lessen negative impact? But when the public's not notified, that doesn't occur.”

The conservancy claims that the transmission line could harm golden eagles, greater sage-grouse, black-footed ferrets, northern leopard frogs, and migratory birds and bats. The BLM’s Environmental Assessment for the transmission line addresses these species. The assessment stated that the impact from the transmission line would be either minor or negligible for every species except migratory birds. In that instance, the assessment laid out plans for a pre-construction survey, which would mark migratory bird nests for protection.

That Assessment resulted in the agency finding that the transmission line’s construction would have no significant impact. That finding means the BLM is not legally required to hold a public comment period for this project. Instead, it may choose to just make the Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact publicly available.

However, if the Environmental Assessment is faulty, as the conservancy’s complaint suggests, then the BLM would be in violation of NEPA. The BLM declined to comment, as the case is ongoing.

This complaint is part of the Albany County Conservancy’s ongoing fight against the building of wind energy infrastructure.

In their complaint, they said the building of the transmission line will deprive them of “personal, scientific, professional, recreational, and aesthetic enjoyment from viewing wildlife in those areas.”

If the court sides with the conservancy, the BLM will be required to organize a public scoping meeting, hold a public comment period, and write up an environmental impact statement.

Suraj Singareddy is originally from Atlanta, GA, and is a rising junior at Yale University. He's currently an English major with a minor in computer science. He also helps run the Yale Daily News' podcast department, writes for a science-fiction magazine called Cortex, and likes to do different theatre-y stuff around campus. He also loves to read comics and graphic novels in his free time, and is always looking for book recommendations!
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