Horse News

Wild Horses Losers in BLM’s Big Bet on Wyoming Wind

By Mark Jaffe
The Denver Post

 Wyoming Wind Farm May Explain BLM’s Assault on Wild Horse Herds

Phil Anschutz — who has made money out of everything from a well explosion to a failing railroad — is looking to wager $9 billion on the fierce winds of Wyoming.

Wind Farm PlansAnschutz’s Power Company of Wyoming is seeking to build the nation’s largest wind farm and then ship the power to California over a 725-mile transmission line, the longest to be built in decades.

California is the West’s biggest renewable-energy market and a vital one for the project. The problem is that officials there say they don’t want Anschutz’s electricity.

Gov. Jerry Brown has voiced a strong preference for in-state renewable-energy projects, and California utility executives say they can meet renewable- energy requirements with projects close to home.

“A couple of years ago it looked to us that the future was going to be large wind projects beyond Nevada, but not now,” said Matt Burkhart, a San Diego Gas and Electric vice president.

Six renewable-energy projects are going up within driving distance of the utility’s headquarters, he said.

That has not deterred the 73-year-old Denver billionaire, who has made invention and shifting strategy his hallmarks.

Just a few years ago, Anschutz put his Wyoming property — the 320,000-acre Overland Trail Cattle Ranch near Rawlins — up for sale with an asking price of $45 million. The ranch was owned by Anschutz Exploration Co., an oil and gas driller.

“Then we saw an opportunity to develop a large infrastructure project to tap a new market,” said Bill Miller, who went from head of the drilling company to the wind company’s chief executive officer.

Massive project

That is “vintage Anschutz,” said Martin Fridson, who featured the businessman in his book, “How to Be a Billionaire.” “Again and again he has extricated himself from situations that appeared hopeless by heading off in a surprising new direction.”

Fridson pointed to the 1967 Wyoming gas-well fire that Anschutz lacked the cash to fight and which almost ruined him.

nschutz, whose fortune Forbes magazine now estimates at $7.6 billion, sold Universal Studios the rights to film the inferno for $100,000 and ended up making a profit.

“The usual outcome has been an extraordinary increase in his wealth,” Fridson said, “and I wouldn’t bet against him this time.”

The current Wyoming project, however, is no simple gas well. The Sierra Madre and Chokecherry Wind Project would put 1,000 wind turbines on 2,000 acres at a cost of up to $6 billion.

The TransWest power line, a $3 billion project, would carry the wind farm’s 3,000 megawatts of power across four states to a point south of Las Vegas, where it could connect with the California power grid.

Anschutz is no stranger in California. The Anschutz Entertainment Group, now up for sale, has been a major real estate developer in Los Angeles and owner of sports teams.

Even with the sale of the entertainment company, Anschutz continues to pursue plans for a new stadium and NFL team in Los Angeles.

To win over unions, which are strong in California, the wind company entered into partner agreements for jobs with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Wyoming officials are making the rounds in California with a slide presentation showing that Wyoming wind is a good deal for the state.

They’ve met with the governor’s office, the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission.

“All the states are bent on developing their own renewable power, and you can’t blame them for that,” said Loyd Drain, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority. “But the good Lord did not make the wind blow the same everywhere.”

Many large-scale interstate renewable-energy projects proposed in the last few years probably will not be built, said Doug Larson, executive director of the Western Interstate Energy Board, a policy forum for Western states and Canadian provinces.

The California Energy Commission projects that for the next 10 years out-of-state renewable energy will come from close-by Arizona, Nevada and the Northwest.

Larson, however, doesn’t count out the Anschutz project. “If there is one that has potential legs, it is this one,” he said. “They have the deep pockets. They have a good wind resource. They just need customers.”

Federal support

The wind project received initial federal Bureau of Land Management approval in October. About half the turbines will be on public land.

Studies on specific turbine sites should be completed by the end of 2013 and, pending permits, initial work on roads and infrastructure would begin in 2014, Miller said.

The TransWest power-line project also has gained initial federal support, becoming one of seven in the nation selected for fast-track federal permitting.

While the 600-kilovolt line will run primarily over public land, there are spots where it crosses state and private property. “We are trying to secure easements and stay in existing pipeline and transmission corridors,” Miller said.

To stem power loss, the line is direct current and has no connections in the four states.

At a hearing last year, Utah residents expressed frustration that the project provides no benefit to the state. In Wyoming, the project has garnered criticism from environmental groups.

“This is the biggest project anyone has seen, and it is right on key sage grouse habitat and an area for golden eagles,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Laramie.

The BLM estimates that 46 to 64 eagles could be killed annually by the turbines, Molvar said.

To win final approval from the BLM, the wind company must show that the specific turbine sites will not adversely impact wildlife. It has even hired its own biologists…(continued)

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story at the Denver Post and to Comment

9 replies »

  1. This expose brought many questions to mind i.e. Where exactly is this 2,000 acre tract and what else lives there other than sage grouse and golden eagles? It does seem strange that at the last Wild Horse and Burro Advisory board they kept talking about the possible listing of the sage grouse as endangered yet here they seem to wrap their arms around this project.

    Remember there were several comments about how the horses would loose if the sage grouse was listed?

    I’m also taken aback by the statement “The BLM estimates that 46 to 64 eagles could be killed annually by the turbines”. Do I understand them to say that is an acceptable number?

    Crossing 750 miles with a power line? What does it look like? Is it buried? Is it strung from the typical high towers?

    Are there any HMA’s that would definitely be affected? Just recently a new water pipeline was approved from a “supposed drought stricken area (?) (you know where they are gathering horses now)” to Vegas. Special rules had to be implemented to accommodate for the wildlife and the horses and burros.

    So many questions would have to be answered by a preliminary Environmental Assessment. Right now they are not offering enough details.

    My best guess is we’re looking at 5 to 10 years before a project like this could get off the ground and who knows…the person chosen to replace Salazar may not be so anti-wildlife and horses and burros.

    just thinking out loud…


  2. Steve-
    This subject is worthy of more research and understanding than I have but from what I can figure, Oregon wind turbine “farms” were causing deaths of eagles – so to PROTECT the eagles from this, the USFWS agreed to permit the lethal destruction of the eagles (pure government logic?). This 5 year temporary lethal destruction was so successful that they are proposing now to extend it for 30 years. This leads to many further thoughts – all of them shining a big bright spotlight on our government’s corruption for the sake of pure greed – money.


    Kinda’ the same thing with removing our wild horses and burros from their land to “protect them”?


  3. Sage grouse in non-native species, horses are native species (wild horses/burros should be on endangered species list, they meet criteria). In the south, eagles nest on huge transmission towers….if the effort was exerted, a solution for the eagles could be implemented. I’m no expert on wind turbines but I would much rather see turbines than oil pipelines, fracking, drilling, & toxic mining. How does this affect wild horses more than barb wire, nuclear testing, livestock stealing their forage & water, or vegas stealing groundwater?
    What burns me is the private profits made & the theft of our Public Lands. Kleptocracy. We weren’t consulted or receiving dividend checks.


  4. The major take-away I get from this story is that this environmental destruction is going to be for California. It seems absolutely ridiculous to build a wind farm in Wyoming for California.

    We need a Wild Horse PAC.


  5. Why are we intending to feed the grid further? It is a National Security Risk. 2000 acres for 1000 huge water guzzling wind turbines? Not a lot of land. Bigger wind is not necessarily better and it does not change anything on the home front for the once middle American.

    For the cost of the Ruby pipeline we could have begun a national network of solar and wind companies to retrofit our public buildings and bring down the overhead costs in schools as well as not feed the grid while affecting the average people across this country.

    We fail to think with conservation and preservation in mind any longer. The people we send to DC have betrayed us for corporate money repeatedly. We do not vet our ‘elected’ choices very well.


  6. I unerstand the need to implement other types of energy. Now besides removing the Wild Horses and Burros which have been part of our national heritage, we now feel its ok to destroy an animal which is our national bird – the Eagle. It always happens the news leaks out after meetings have already taken place. We have some power lines in our local area which at times we see the hawks nesting. However, there are no large arms reaching out which could kill them. It appears the BLM is always making deals for our public lands without the will of the public. We now need to hold the feet of our Legislators to the fire and protect our wildlife. We can only hope the new Secretary of the Interior will have other views than the last low life in that position. Once appointed, we need to clearly get our views known to stop all this madness.


  7. Let’s do wind energy projects on already developed areas, not at the expense of what little remains of your natural public lands and wildlife, including returned native horses and burros!


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