Scotts Bluff County Board extends moratorium on new permits for renewable energy projects

Scotts Bluff County Board extends moratorium on new permits for renewable energy projects
Scotts Bluff County Commissioner Michael Blue (left, red shirt) responds to criticism from Kim Bowman (at podium) over the rejection of the Situla Energy conditional use permit (Miller/KNEB/RRN)
June 18th, 2024 | Scott Miller

The Scotts Bluff County Board Monday evening voted in favor of a six month extension of the moratorium on new permit applications for renewable energy projects.

Commissioner Charlie Knapper brought the subject to the agenda, having been told by Building and Zoning Director Bill Mabin that a Planning Commission sub-committee was still working on the issue and considering a new classification system based on project size.

During public comment, Reginald Preston told the board he had three questions on the subject: What had been accomplished in the first six months, What are the measurable goals for the next six months, and what was the legal authority for imposing the moratorium in the first place. “Then, what is the difference between your process to change the ordinances that you’re proposing to change, as compared to the process to pause the ordinance that you’re proposing, to pause,” said Preston. “Is there a delta there? Should you be holding public comments such as you probably would for a change in an ordinance? So if there’s answers to that, I’m happy to hear them. If you need references, if you need folks to help weigh in on that, provide answers, (that’s) perfectly fine.”

Gering resident Kim Bowman also continued his vocal opposition to the board’s decision on the Situla Energy conditional use permit, saying nothing has happened with comp plan or zoning changes since January, and he doubted anything else would happen in the next six months. Bowman then criticized those who voted against the permit, prompting Commissioner Michael Blue to respond when Bowman called him a “rubber stamp” to Knapper and Commissioner Russ Reisig.

“Everybody that talked to me about this project before we cast a vote said ‘no’. Not one person said ‘vote for it’. The only person that chewed me out afterwards, the one who says to it, called the next day and just chewed me out,” said Blue. “Everybody else come up, shook my hand, said, ‘thank you’. So I’m going to vote the way my public wants me to vote, unless it’s morally wrong.”

“Just asking for your two resignations immediately,” replied Bowman, gesturing to both Blue and Knapper, which prompted a sharp reply from Blue of “Sir. I won’t resign.”

Bowman responded “Okay, I know Charlie won’t,” and Blue said “I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to do it. If you don’t like it, too bad.”

The vote extending the moratorium to early next January passed 4 to 1, with Chair Ken Meyer dissenting.


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