OVERLAND TRAIL RANCH, CARBON COUNTY—The 732-mile high-voltage TransWest Express transmission line that will connect Wyoming wind-generated electricity to the Southwest is an example of President Joe Biden’s “all-hands-on-deck” strategy for clean energy and climate resiliency, according to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

“The Interior Department is moving quickly to meet President Biden’s goal of permitting at least 25 gigawatts of onshore renewable energy by 2025,” Haaland told attendees of a groundbreaking event Tuesday as the southern Wyoming wind whipped across a stage. “The project that we are all here to celebrate — the TransWest Express transmission project — is a momentous milestone in our effort to make that goal a reality.”

Though the Obama-Biden administration granted TransWest Express a “rapid response” designation in 2011, the project has relied entirely on private capital, according to the company.

The wind ripped at a row of flags behind a dais where Haaland was joined by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Gov. Mark Gordon and TransWest Express LLC officials who addressed a crowd of more than 100 attendees. U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning spoke at a TransWest Express reception later that day in Rawlins. 

Federal and state officials gathered in Carbon County June 20, 2023 to celebrate the launch of the TransWest Express transmission project. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Though Gordon and the Interior officials often clash on energy and federal land use policy fronts, they all hailed TransWest Express — as well as the Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind energy project that will energize the line with 3,000 megawatts of power — as vital steps toward boosting clean energy to help address a climate emergency.

“We know that the time to act on climate is now,” Haaland said. “From coastal towns and rural farms to urban centers and tribal communities, climate change poses an existential threat. Not just to our environment, but to our health, our communities and our economic well being.”

“Gathered here,” Gordon said, “we see the first steps that we’re taking to make sure that we take the action that’s absolutely necessary to keep us from climate peril.”

A permitting feat

Both the $3 billion TransWest Express transmission line and the $5 billion Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind energy project are backed by billionaire Phil Anschutz. The Anschutz Corporation owns the sprawling 320,000-acre Overland Trail Ranch in central Carbon County — the site of historic connections for the Pony Express and transcontinental railroad. 

The ranch encompasses a large swath of the “checkerboard” — about a 50-50 mix of private and federal lands, according to CCSM developer Power Company of Wyoming. Those lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, along with other BLM, state and private lands along the four-state TransWest Express route, mired the projects in the bureaucracy of state, county and federal permitting. All told the process has spanned more than 15 years. 

This graph depicts the route of the TransWest Express transmission line connecting Wyoming wind energy to the Southwest. (TransWest Express)

“Of course, this took way too long to get permitted,” Granholm said. “We all agree in the Biden administration that we need to accelerate these transmission lines. The Department of Interior, the Department of Energy and the White House have been working on a process to accelerate these transmission lines that, of course, still protects our natural environments: our air, our water, our land.”

Haaland noted that both projects were prioritized during the Obama-Biden administration 12 years ago. Although the federal permitting process for such projects must be streamlined to promote clean energy projects quicker, the reformation effort will not bypass a commitment to ensure environmental and human health protections, as well as promoting environmental justice, Haaland said.

“The BLM [in its permitting authority over the projects] was able to avoid impacts to greater sage grouse, to lands with wilderness characteristics and to other natural resources in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada,” she said. “Because those are important too.”

Agreeing on climate action

Though entirely financed by private capital and delayed for years, the TransWest Express and CCSM projects fit President Biden’s climate and Investing In America initiatives, according to Interior officials. The CCSM and TransWest Express projects directly address the “impacts of climate change by boosting climate resiliency and replacing aging infrastructure,” Haaland said.

Gov. Mark Gordon, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speak at a TransWest Express groundbreaking celebration June 20, 2023 in Carbon County. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Though he often rails against Biden administration efforts such as slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and reasserting conservation as a “multiple-use” priority on federal public lands, Gordon joined the Interior officials in calling for quick and decisive action — through innovation — to address climate change.

“Because there is an urgency as we see climate change, we know that we don’t have time to waste,” Gordon said. “We have to move with diligence forward to make sure that we address the issue of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with alacrity and diligence and with dedication.”

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. Follow the money. Washington State is loaded with eye-sore windmills pumping power to California. Effect on bird population from raptors to bats is devastating. Coyote hunters coming in to shoot coyotes feeding on dead birds under the mills.
    All I see in the ground breaking photo is $$$$

  2. ‘Just a few words about energy and “Climate Change:” A record of 400,000 years of Earth’s atmosphere is preserved in ice cores at the National Core Facility in Denver. These cores show that atmospheric carbon dioxide, before the Industrial Revolution, was steady at approximately 280 parts per million (That’s 280 thousandths of one percent!). Now, our atmosphere contains around 400 parts per million, or 400 thousandths of one percent. So, totally ignoring the natural warming of the planet that has occurred over the past 14,000 years, the maximum increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere that can possibly be attributed to human activity comes to 130 parts per million, or 130 thousandths of one percent!!!! I wish the media at large would report this fact instead of shilling for the “Climate Crisis” crowd. Another critical comment: the man I knew at the USGS Central Regional HQ in Denver where I worked for four years, and who was responsible for determining the detrimental affects associated with wind turbine farms, resigned after his superiors removed his data from his workstation computer. They did this around 2013 while he was on Annual Leave. He was disciplined for attempting to retrieve this data….and quit. Based upon this event, and many more that I have personally witnessed in my career, I’d be reluctant to believe much of anything advanced by governmental authorities.

    1. Thank you sincerely for your comment Robert. This is what needs to be widely known, in the face of the politicians’ latest get rich quick scheme, and the complicity of the media. Thank you again.

    2. What you are forgetting/deliberately omitting is that, yes the Earth has both warmed and cooled over long periods of time. The last ice age was 20,000 years ago. This is because of changes in 1. the Earth’s orbit 2. the Earth’s axis and 3. the Earth’s “wobble” on its axis. These changes take place over 20,000-40,000 years depending on which part of the orbit we are talking about. So, yes, the ice record does in fact reflect this as well as a carbon record. However, we have seen our planet rapidly warm over the last 200-ish years which also happens to coincide with human growth/industrial growth. There is no such ice record that explains what are experiencing as anything other than warming caused by humans. Simply put, it’s not just a “natural cycle” so stop propagating the ridiculous notion that it’s “just natural and we’re fine”. The planet will survive, we will not.

      1. Anecdotal evidence. My brother has a neighbor who’s friend worked at……yada yada yada…

        There’s a resemblance of the vaccine and election lies that the non-critical thinking folks plastered all over their social media pages. Unfortunately, one side of the political spectrum believes everything they read on the intrawebz.

  3. Better late than never. But dispersed solar farming closer to SW electric demandmay be far more effective than the concept that is underway. Long distance transmission/and distribution privately-owned and dependent upon wind is ok in terms of climate change if it replaces coal and or gas electric generation but its the same old thinking…just a change in resource supply.

    1. Linda: There are areas much closer to the high use areas of electricity which are much better choices for solar in particular. The Salton Sea area of southern California and other southern CA desert areas are already severely impacted by man and are close to Los Angeles. I can’t help recall the site of the Burning Man festival in Nevada where there isn’t a single plant visible in the media pictures. This whole solar program should have been preceded by a Federal ( BLM ) survey of the best sites in the western US where solar could do almost no environmental damage such as Salton Sea. But no, they rushed into the solar program with an anything can go anywhere attitude and now we will see thousands of acres of fragile high desert habitat in Wyoming destroyed for the SW demand.

      I’ve commented before that what we are witnessing is a 4th and 5th energy industry coming to Wyoming that will increase the cumulative impact on the environment greatly. So we now have 1.) oil, 2.) natural gas, 3.) coal, 4.) solar, 5.) wind farms. And the first 3 are not going away as fast as some would like to think – the decline of coal is obvious but oil and gas are here to stay for a long time – especially since we can cut carbon emissions from oil and gas in the US but we will increasingly export our oil and gas to other countries – it will just be burned elsewhere. Witness the growth of of liquefied natural gas to Europe to replace Russian gas cutoff by the Ukrainian was – produced in the US and burned in Europe. And China’s carbon emissions are growing exponentially. I feel we will continue to produce oil and gas in the US at almost the same rate but burn less here – but it will get burned somewhere and worldwide carbon emissions will not meet reduction goals. China is not on board on carbon emissions – thats the big factor.

  4. Not arguing against wind energy as a source per se, but we continue to ignore the impact on raptors and other wildlife in our rush to replace fossil fuels. It is not just wind energy on the plains of Wyoming, but the side effects with other so called “green” energy we continue to ignore as a society.

    1. All of the comments posted here are interesting for sure. However they do not address the irreversible predicament that the Human Species is facing at this point. The Silly notion in the Comments thus far that seem to suggest that the energy malfeasance of unbridled human growth on Earth can be propelled by a Hydro-Carbon drip of “some sort” indefinitely into the future is just F-ing wrong! Civilization is a Heat Engine no matter how you fuel it. I would urge for compassionate rapid de-growth of Humans and their negative presence on the only living planet we know until the species is extinct! Infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible, and we are now in the Sixth Mass Extinction (Anthropocene or Petroleum Man (Mike Rupert)), and guess who is at the top of the food chain? Try and plant a garden, down size, and start doing Yoga so you can Kiss Your Ass Good-Bye! And above all tell the Corporate Fascists (Republican and/or Democrat) running and ruining our country to F-Off!