Permit extension for much-delayed Wyoming power plant denied

MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press

Permit extension for much-delayed Wyoming power plant denied

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Campbell County power plant that has been in the works for almost 20 years without being built on Monday got dealt one of its biggest regulatory setbacks yet when a state review council refused to agree to yet another extension to the project's start date.

The Wyoming Industrial Siting Council previously had granted extensions for the Two Elk power plant a few miles east of Wright.

The council vote in Douglas means Greenwood Village, Colorado-based North American Power Group now is out of compliance with its state industrial siting permit, said Keith Guille, spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

Guille said the state would move toward terminating the company's permit.

The council oversees a DEQ division whose purpose is to help ensure that huge, costly projects like the 300-megawatt Two Elk plant don't disrupt Wyoming's small, remote communities when hundreds of construction workers show up in town.

Wyoming requires companies pursuing big projects to keep the division and its council apprised of their progress, including when they expect construction to begin.

Over the years, concern about Two Elk shifted away from how its construction might affect Wright, population 1,850, to why barely any work has occurred at the project site.

"We're glad to see regulators take a stand and make the company do what it said it was going to do, which is the whole point of having a valid and enforceable permit," said Shannon Anderson of the Powder River Basin Resource Council.

"The locals of course, call this project the 'No Elk,'" she added.

Company officials didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

Plans for Two Elk have taken several turns since the project was first proposed in the mid-1990s. Beetle-killed timber and low-grade coal from the region's vast coal mines would fuel the plant under one of the company's more recent proposals.

North American Power Group also sought to experiment with trapping carbon dioxide in the ground deep beneath the plant. The company got almost $10 million in economic stimulus grants from the Energy Department for the work.

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