By Liz Wood 

Industrial Siting Council approves DKRW amendment


Liz Wood

County Commissioner Lindy Glode, of Saratoga, tells the Industrial Siting Council that because DKRW's information is so outdated and incomplete, she personally believes the DKRW amendment should be denied. Glode said this was a difficult decision because she would like to see local coal used to expand county employment and tax revenue. Glode is pleased that the public will get quarterly progress updates from the prospective gas-producer.

Three hours of testimony and discussion ends in a four to two vote

The Industrial Siting Council approved and extended a 30-month amendment submitted by DKRWs' Medicine Bow Fuel and Power LLC (MBFP), Dec. 18 after hearing from representatives of DKRW, elected officials and members of the public.

Two motions were presented. The first one fell to a tie vote, mostly because during discussion, the amendment grew, changed and became hard to follow.

After listening to nearly two hours of comments from those assembled, the ISC board discussed the first motion for nearly an hour before it failed.

ISC Chairman Shawn Warner then encouraged a new motion, which passed four to two. The motion includes a 39-month extension with conditions set requiring quarterly updates and bi-annual meetings.

"We are obviously pleased with the decision," K. Wade Cline, Executive Vice President of Construction for DKRW, said. "But for us, this was a step in the path. Now we go fully back to work, working on the financing and working on the construction planning."

Cline said it was a long, but very thorough, discussion. "I have always enjoyed working with the Industrial Siting Council because they take into consideration comments and opinions from many different parties."

"I don't think (the approval) is a bad thing," County Commissioner Lindy Glode said. "I think it will keep (DKRW) on schedule and now the county and municipalities, according to the conditions, have to be kept up-to-date. It will be better for everyone to know what is happening."

Glode said the passing of the amendment still doesn't answer all the questions she has. "I think knowing what is going to happen and when it is going to happen is a good thing,"

Glode said she will feel a lot better with the quarterly updates though.

Glode was, however, surprised when Cline and DKRW's attorney Mary Throne showed up to the Carbon County Commissioner's meeting unannounced on Dec. 17 after a two-year absence. "I was a little annoyed, too. Of course everyone is welcome, but for the commission to remain as transparent as we should be, I would have liked them to be on the agenda for the public."

County Commissioner Leo Chapman was surprised by the fact ISC extended their permit to 39 months rather than 30 months. "It was my understanding that they were requesting 30-month delay, with six months prior to the end of the 30 months to present a construction schedule."

The ISC requires that a construction schedule be submitted nine months before construction begins and that MBFP had 30 months to produce it, giving MBFP up to a 39-month extension. "It's better for DKRW, it is not what the county particularly wants," Chapman said.

Even though the County Commissioners had a divided vote on Dec. 17 at their meeting, he said he believed the commissioners work well together. "We have a superb commission and I admire and applaud the commissioners for speaking their mind," Chapman said.

Chapman said he was also pleased that the door was not closed on DKRW. "The county stands to lose a great deal if MBFP doesn't come to Carbon County." In the socioeconomic impact study, Chapman said the county stands to gain $9 million is tax revenue in the first three years. "Our (county)employees took a big hit this year. They didn't get raises and they have to pay more into their insurance," Chapman said. That is a double hit for them. It was a tight budget," Chapman said.

The Industrial Siting Council was asked to move the public hearing up to the beginning of the meeting, which was denied when it was noted by Industrial Siting Administrator Luke Esch, that the meeting was advertised for 1 p.m., Dec. 18.

After discussion, the ISC decided to stay with the original schedule that was advertised for the public meeting.

Several proponents spoke in favor of the DKRW amendment, while others complained about how MBFP did not keep the public informed of their actions.

Many of the comments were received with applause from the 50-plus attending the public meeting.

Most who asked for the amendment to be denied said they were not against the DKRW project, but against the amendment itself.

Financing and Contractors

Cline appeared before the ISC to testify on the behalf of MBFP.

Cline said he could tell you what will happen in week 13 of construction, but could not verify when construction would actually begin.

The original permit, approved in Jan. 2008, has undergone several amendments.

The difference between the amendment proposed on Dec. 18 and all other amendments is that if MBFP doesn't produce the required documents by the end of the 30 months, the permit will expire.

Cline explained that getting the financing and contractors in place are the largest holdups in keeping MBFP from submitting the construction schedule.

In their amendment, MBFP requested that they not be required to submit the construction schedule until six months before construction began.

In their discussion, the ISC board members felt that nine months would allow all parties involved to review the plans before approving construction.

After hearing complaints from the public about not being informed, the ISC added to the amendment required bi-annual public meetings to be advertised in local media, and quarterly progress reports to the ISC.

Cline told the ISC that MBFP would abide by those stipulations.

Cline said after the meeting that in hindsight DKRW and MBFP should have been keeping the public updated, but because they felt there was nothing to report, there was no need to tell people there was nothing to report.

"We have heard and learned through the process, that even though we don't have breaking news, we need to communicate and let folks know exactly where you are," Cline said.

ISC board member Peter Brandjord asked Cline for some background about what MBFP has been doing. Cline explained that when they started on the project eight years ago, they had a list of 100 things to do, each year, they would work the list down to 70 then 50 and so on. "We are constantly working on financing and with lenders," Cline said.

Cline said the national economy being a "roller coaster" has not helped and that financing was pulled because of the economy.

Cline said MBFP is now working with local contractors to find what they can supply so they can bring in others to fill the void. "That is a large group to put together," Cline said.

Cline said the company was having to coordinate the calendar with contractors.

Brandjord told Cline that communication with the local community with regular updates was needed.

Cline said that he realized that MBFP needs to do a better job of communicating with the public. He said that when there was nothing to report, they felt no need to do an update, but that he realized that wasn't the case here. Cline said MBFP would do a better job of keeping the public and the communities affected informed.

ISC board member John Corra questioned Cline about the housing situation. Cline assured ISC that they have done an evaluation of the housing market in Medicine Bow and Rawlins. During public comment, (((REALTOR?))) Linda Wagner expressed her concern on MBFP's housing study.

Wagner said that MBFP called real estate agents to see what was available and did not contact apartment owners who do not use real estate agents for property management. Wagner said a lot of property owners in Hanna sell their own property, too.

During the public comments, Wagner said the town of Hanna supports MBFP's amendment, as did the town of Medicine Bow.

Kenda Colman, councilwoman for Medicine Bow, said that Medicine Bow is in support of the amendment. (((HOW Many?))) Residents and supporters of the project from Medicine Bow stood up to show their support.

Colman said that MBFP has been in constant contact with town of Medicine Bow and they receive regular updates.

"We are upgrading our water and sewer system," Colman said in anticipation of the project coming to Carbon County.

Conflict of Interest?

Colman identified a conflict of interest about John Johnson, who serves as a Carbon County Commissioner and leases land from Arch Coal. Colman felt that Johnson should not have testified at the Oct. 1 ISC meeting and that he should not be commenting or voting at the commissioners meetings.

Johnson told the ISC that he did not believe his participation was a conflict of interest, but that he was recusing himself from any discussion or voting as a Carbon County Commissioner until he received a decision from Wyoming's state attorney general.

In Johnson's public comments at the meeting, he said he was speaking as a private citizen and not as a commissioner.

Johnson said a good project will stand out on its own, and asked the ISC to deny the permit amendment.

Colman said that Charlie George, the town of Medicine Bow's maintenance man talks with representatives of Medicine Bow (((MBFP??))) on a regular basis. Colman said she believed if the people don't have the information, they aren't seeking it.

"We feel that the economic growth and development that (MBFP) will bring to the state of Wyoming, the United States of America ... is going to benefit of lot of people. It's going to benefit Medicine Bow."

Colman described a town that has split families. "The dads are working in Gillette in the coal mine areas up there and come home on the weekends," Colman said. "We would much rather see them working in their own home area."

Leonard Gonzalez, of the High County Joint Powers Board, said his board has a landfill permit until the year 2020. Gonzalez said after 2020, the High County JPB will be a transfer station. The board believes that the construction debris could fill up the landfill and they will be forced to close the landfill before 2020, which would cause an economic challenge.

High County JPB represents the towns of Medicine Bow, Elk Mountain and Hanna.

Leo Chapman with the Carbon County Commissioners said "At this time, the Carbon County takes no position on the proposed amendment."

Too 'big and complex'?

Carbon County Commissioner, Sue Jones, told the ISC that there are other industries going through the same process as MBFP and that "The playing field should be fair and rules clear to all."

Jones said that Cline told the Carbon County Commissioners that this project was "big and complex".

"Maybe it is just that, too big and too complex to come to fruition," Jones said.

Jones said she is not anti-industry and that Carbon County can have a healthy and diverse economy with wise and careful management without compromising the environment or economy and " destroying the reason we all live here."

Jones said she would like to see the coal used. "This is Carbon County, and we have not seen any tax dollars from coal due to no coal industry in the past two years. which is a first in our history," Jones said.

"It angers me that this proponent is going to do something 'someday'," Jones said. "It is unfair to small communities like Medicine Bow, who have expended much time and money preparing for their arrival. They deserve more from Medicine Bow Fuel and Power."

Jones said she is not opposed to the company or its business plan, she is opposed to how they are proceeding with disregard to processes and rules.

Jones said she believes "We may be parties to one of the longest running and worldwide scams of our time, from what I have seen thus far."

Jones said she recommended that the ISC deny the request for the amendments.

It takes time

Terry Weickum, a businessman and former Carbon County Commissioner, said that with most of the commissioners new to the board and having served only a year probably have a lot of questions about the DKRW project. "The fear of the unknown if probably the worst fear in the world," Weickum said.

"It isn't that DKRW hasn't answered a lot of these questions ... a lot of people weren't out here for it," Weickum said.

"I have never embarked on a $2 billion project, but I would imagine it would take a tremendous amount of time."

Weickum said he estimated about 70 percent of Wyoming's income comes from coal. "We better figure out how to use coal in a clean way or we are going to be in some serious trouble."

Weickum asked "If this delay is accepted, then what is the downside? The downside is some people won't know the answer for 30 months. The upside is we could have one of the greatest economic growth situations in all of Wyoming."


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