Wind Resistance

Will the petrocracy -- and greens -- keep Wyoming from realizing its windy potential?

  • Pronghorn and wind turbines near Medicine Bow, Wyoming. JONATHAN THOMPSONPronghorn and wind turbines near Medicine Bow, Wyoming.

    Jonathan Thompson
  • Wind farm north of Elk Mountain, in Carbon County, Wyoming.

    Mark Goke
  • Oil magnate and anti-wind activist Diemer True.

    Jonathan Thompson
  • Kenneth G. Lay’s ranch on White Creek. Wasatch Wind has leased land for a wind farm on the ridge from Richard Grant and the state of Wyoming.

    Kenneth G. Lay
  • Bob Whitton says wind turbines could help Wyoming ranchers like him stay in business.

    Jonathan Thompson
  • Wyoming wind humor at the old National Weather Service forecast building at the Cheyenne airport.

    Tom Dietrich

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It's fair to say that True is a cowboy -- Jimmy Stewart, without the golly-gee-whiz naivete, might have played him in a Western. True's front teeth are a bit crooked, his nose may have been broken once. Today, he's wearing boots and a crisp cerulean-blue shirt that brings out the brightness in his friendly eyes. He wears a leather belt with a buckle that says "1991 National Finals Rodeo." As a hobby, he writes cowboy poetry, and, after a little prodding, recites one about "a branding, from the standpoint of a spur. It's a little different perspective, I can tell you that for sure." Nothing in his manner indicates the enormous amount of power he wields in this state -- and in the nation. When he urges the government to save his beloved mountains from industrialization, you can almost forget that, up until now, True was firmly on the other side, aggressively attacking regulations intended to keep public lands from being, well, industrialized.

True is often described as a king-maker or powerbroker. "It's not Ron Micheli who concerns me, it's the puppet master, Diemer True," Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal told the Casper Star-Tribune when asked about Micheli, a Republican gubernatorial candidate. True has pulled levers in the party as a national committeeman for the Wyoming GOP. The True family has collectively bankrolled the party for decades -- it was the top donor to Wyoming House and Senate candidates during the 1990s. On a national level, the family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates over the years. Diemer and his wife, Susie, have donated more than $200,000 to PACs and candidates for national office since 1989.

Typically, the donations went to pro-industry, anti-regulation candidates such as Wyoming's Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso, as well as Heather Wilson, Steve Pearce and George W. Bush. True has also donated to Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, noted for his attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency and his assertion that climate change is a "false notion." True himself served as chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a position from which he regularly urged the federal government to increase access to oil and gas development on public lands.

In July 2002, at a congressional hearing on natural gas supplies headed by Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin, a longtime friend, True complained about having a hard time gaining access to coalbed methane in the Powder River Basin because "it appears that the environmental extremists now have been targeting that play … I think the American public does not understand the vital role that energy plays in their own personal prosperity ... As a result, with NIMBY and I have even heard now we have the acronym NOPE, Not On Planet Earth, what has happened is that … those people who believe we need additional resources developed have been losing the public relations battle." In the same testimony, True said that violation of "a sense of place" was no basis for denying natural gas development on public land.

True was part of the Bush/Cheney energy task force, in which industry leaders influenced the administration's policies. As recently as 2006, he served on the board of Frontiers of Freedom, a neo-conservative, hard-right organization that calls itself the "antithesis of the green movement," fights against the Endangered Species Act and has recently taken up the torch of global warming skepticism. True also served on the board of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a Denver-based property-rights, anti-environmental regulation group. (Former Interior secretaries Gale Norton and James Watt were also members.) The True Foundation, administered by the family, donates to a variety of local charities, but many of its big gives go to right-wing groups such as the Mountain States Legal Foundation, the Heritage Foundation and Capital Research Center.

"I'm glad to honor Diemer because he's a good friend," says then-Vice President Dick Cheney in a video produced to commemorate True's receiving the IPAA's Chief Roughneck award in 2008. "He has become one of the best-known and admired leaders in the energy business. He thinks clearly and speaks the truth plainly and he keeps his word." Later in the video, the cowpoke narrator jokes:

"Legend has it, he took his award, and went back up to the Hill to fight the Pelosi gang. See, he got this Pelosi into a room, read her his awful cowboy poetry. Wouldn't stop 'til she agreed to offshore drilling. There's one mean cowboy."

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