When a number of federal, state and local officials, along with members of the public met at the Carbon County Event Center for a work meeting dealing with a major power line transmission project, some were under the impression that the meeting was open to public attendance.
That was not the case. The meeting on July 17 was not meant to be open to the public, according to Beverly Gorny, spokesperson with the Bureau of Land Management. In a telephone interview Friday, Gorny said the meeting, which was posted publicly and sent to media entities in the area including the Sun Advocate, was only open to those federal, state and local officials who gathered to discuss items pertaining to the Energy Gateway South Transmission Project.
"Our understanding was that a mistake was made," Gorny said of the meeting agenda being sent out. A copy of the agenda was sent out to the public the day before the meeting and was signed by Carbon County Deputy Clerk/Auditor Alexis Horsley.
The proposed project would have steel towers ranging in height from 140 to 190 feet along an over 400 mile wide area that when finished would bring about 1,500 megawatts of electricity generated from renewable and thermal sources at planned facilities in Wyoming. According to the information provided on a BLM website, the project would begin in south central Wyoming near Medicine Bow at the planned Aeolus Substation, and would traverse from northeast to the southwest across northwestern Colorado to a planned Clover Substation near Mona.
The agenda that was faxed to the Sun Advocate before the meeting shows the group of officials and specialists were planning to discuss an overview of the public scoping results which included news about things such as conservation easement, designated utility corridors on public lands, inventoried roadless areas on United States Forest Service lands, Sage Grouse leks and habitat and other biological resources including sensitive plants and more. Also included in the agenda was the discussion of an alternative route modification and local siting issues within Sanpete, Duchesne and Carbon County. Listed under Carbon County was discussion of the project traveling through or near Emma Park to Helper, Emma Park to Wellington and Wellington to Electric Lake.
Before the meeting was started, everyone in the room was asked to introduce themselves and who they were representing. Sun Advocate Associate Editor John Serfustini attended the meeting representing the newspaper as did other media representatives with Castle Country Radio and Emery Telcom. Also in attendance was Price City Council member Rick Davis as well a few members of the public.
After everyone introduced themselves, Tamara Gertsch, a national project manager with the BLM for the Energy Gateway South project, said media members along with members of the public and council member Davis needed to leave the room because the meeting was closed. Gertsch cited the discussions at the meeting were "pre-decisional" and would contain sensitive information about issues that are still in the data gathering stage.
Before leaving the room, Serfustini questioned why the meeting was not open to the public after being advertised that it would be. He cited that the project would affect Carbon County and the residents in the county needed to be informed about what was going on.
"I just question why this meeting has to be conducted in secret," Serfustini said noting the federal, state and county agencies that were taking part in the meeting.
Gorny said there was no intention of the meeting being conducted in secret. Instead, it was a continuation of the interagency work for the project and they were following guidelines from a federal level which allows for meetings about the project to be closed to the public especially concerning sensitive data connected to the project.
"This meeting was not meant to preclude people from attending. There is data that needs to be protected within this project in accordance with the law," Gorny explained. "It's (the project) still in the data gathering stage at the moment."
Other public scoping meeting about Energy Gateway South took place in 2011 in the summer and fall, Gorny said.
The entities working on the project will continue to stay in touch on a monthly basis with each other to keep up to date on new happenings or any issues that may arise.
While the information concerning key issues is still being kept from the public, Gorny said documents will be made entirely to the public some time next summer.
"There was no effort to make this meeting secretive. It was just mistakenly posted by the county," Gorny said.
For more information about the project, visit the BLM's website at http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/hdd/gateway_south.html.