By Dean Michael
Via Wyoming News Exchange
RAWLINS — Recently inflamed contract disputes between Rocky Mountain Power and Boswell Wind, LLC are likely to cause construction delays for a wind farm projected 15 miles east of Medicine Bow.
Addressing the issue on Tuesday, Carbon County Commissioners discussed how the possible setback of the Boswell Springs wind farm, anticipated to erect up to 170 turbines over 21,596 acres between Albany and Carbon counties, will affect the area.
The two companies, which originally entered into a 20-year contract less than two years ago, are currently locking horns in front of both the Wyoming Public Service Commission and U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York. The details of what has pushed both companies to pursue legal action are confidential.
Rocky Mountain Power responded to inquiries into the dispute by stating, “Rocky Mountain Power cannot comment directly on the ongoing complaint proceedings between the company and Boswell Wind at the Wyoming Public Service Commission. However, Rocky Mountain Power takes both its commitments to provide affordable, reliable electricity to customers, and its contractual commitments seriously.”
Despite not being able to discuss the current proceedings, Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson David Eskelsen did comment on how the process of dispute settlements via the Public Service Commission has worked in the past. Eskelsen said these disputes typically require months, even years to settle. This means construction will likely push back for at least another year.
Eskelsen also stated that these disputes are not uncommon, though only a handful have crossed Rocky Mountain Power in the past five years.
Boswell Wind LLC or its parent company did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.
While the details of the dispute remain confidential, its impact on Carbon County is clear: the end of impact assistance funds for the foreseeable future.
As all construction efforts have been suspended, impact assistance funds issued by the Industrial Siting Council to relieve burdens caused by an influx of workers have also stopped. As no workers will be entering either Carbon or Albany counties until the dispute concludes, the payments have been made unnecessary for most communities.
According to Carbon County Clerk Gwynn Bartlett, not all communities may be so unaffected. Some have chosen to pay for necessary improvements prior to the first workers arriving and then using the monthly paychecks as reimbursement. Thus, the end of monthly payments could be more impactful for some communities.
Funds from the project have already been collected for several months, though dispersement depends on an agreement between the feuding companies. If the project falls through or is seriously delayed for years, the exact protocol for moving forward is unknown.
According to Carbon County Commissioner John Johnson, the Industrial Siting Council does not have a mechanism currently in place to retract funds in cases where projects fall through.
As it stands, Carbon County government has more than $432,000 already collected from impact assistance payments waiting for assignment. A portion of the impact assistance has been spent hiring two new sheriff’s deputies as well as purchasing several new patrol vehicles.
The remaining county funds have been earmarked for several investments to improve transportation infrastructure in the area, including an upgrade for road and bridge equipment. The purchasing process, however, has been suspended until the future of Boswell Springs has been confirmed.
As a result of the uncertainty of the Boswell Springs Project, Carbon County Commissioners decided to simply sit on their portion of the remaining funds, rather than face possible repayment of funds already spent. The commissioners further decided to alert other recipients of impact funds of the danger presented by this delay, but would not withhold funds under county control.
The final check from the Boswell Springs Project entered county hands on March 6, which is intended for use in April and will be dispersed normally. Johnson went on to say that after the final check has been cashed, it would become a waiting game.
“It could be lengthy,” said Johnson of the projected wait time.