UW Student Dressed As Eagle Pleads For Birds During RMP Rate Hike Hearing

University of Wyoming student Maggie Immen showed up dressed as an eagle for Thursday’s Wyoming Public Service Commission meeting to draw attention to eagles and other birds that are killed by wind turbines.

RJ
Renée Jean

October 27, 20235 min read

Maggie Imman, a University of Wyoming student, attended Thursday's Wyoming Public Service Commission meeting in Cheyenne dressed as a bald eagle to comment on the costs of electricity in the state and the toll wind turbines take on eagles.
Maggie Imman, a University of Wyoming student, attended Thursday's Wyoming Public Service Commission meeting in Cheyenne dressed as a bald eagle to comment on the costs of electricity in the state and the toll wind turbines take on eagles. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

Maggie Immen doesn’t eat Ramen noodles every day. There are some days she changes it up with peanut butter.

But if the Wyoming Public Service Commission approves a 30% electricity rate increase for Rocky Mountain Power, Immen said she wonders whether she and her classmates will even be able to afford that.

“When I looked into how much more expensive they were proposing electricity to be, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous,” she told Cowboy State Daily after making an appearance during Day 2 of the Public Service Commission’s hearing on Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed rate hikes. “I know we have college students who can barely afford what we’re doing right now. That 29.2(%) estimated proposed increase would honestly wipe most of us out, and I couldn’t stand that.”

Immen had another reason to address the PSC, which is why she showed up dressed in an eagle costume. It didn’t have anything to do with Halloween being right around the corner, but it was to bring attention to an issue she finds frightening.

‘Diminishing Returns’

That issue is an increasing number of eagles killed by wind turbines as more of them pop up across Wyoming’s landscape.

“When I heard about (the rate increase) and I looked into it further, I realized that Wyoming is trying to make a lot of decisions that California originally did,” said Imman, who came to UW from California. “We’re putting in more wind turbines and everything else.”

Immen told Public Service Commissioners that in California, wind towers have killed so many birds that eagles and other birds are practically non-existent.

“They have recorded birds so that you can feel at home without having to acknowledge the fact that wildlife no longer exists in California,” she said. “And it worries me and scares me that in Wyoming, we are going down a similar path.”

She’s also concerned that there are “diminishing returns when costs such as electric bills rise to such an amount.”

Immen told Cowboy State Daily that, in her research, she found figures from U.S. Fish and Wildlife that suggest windmills are killing as much as 28.2% of the eagle population in areas where windmills are located. 

“I also found out that Fish and Wildlife Services are usually under-estimating the number of eagles that are actually killed,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “Eagles are a part of our American heritage and everything, plus they have a huge impact in different cultures, whether it’s just being very patriotic, or it’s even in Native American cultures, eagles have a huge impact.

“I personally don’t understand how people are allowed to legally kill that many animals in a species,” she added. “Especially, a species that carries such importance.”

Maggie Imman, a University of Wyoming student, attended Thursday's Wyoming Public Service Commission meeting in Cheyenne dressed as a bald eagle to comment on the costs of electricity in the state and the toll wind turbines take on eagles.
Maggie Imman, a University of Wyoming student, attended Thursday's Wyoming Public Service Commission meeting in Cheyenne dressed as a bald eagle to comment on the costs of electricity in the state and the toll wind turbines take on eagles. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

About That Cost

Immen told the PSC that in addition to bonafide wildlife, another reason she located in Wyoming is its affordable lifestyle. She knows several other out-of-state students who feel the same way.

“When out-of-state students come to Wyoming, not only do they contribute to the population, but they also contribute to the economy and everything else,” she said. “And I know the university is a huge player in the economy, and the entire state of Wyoming (is affected by) our outcome.”

She believes Rocky Mountain Power’s rate increase, if granted, would discourage out-of-state students from coming to Wyoming, which would be a detriment to the state’s overall economy.

“It could also shut down small business owners and everything else,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like an effective or reliable solution.”

Grew Up Off The Grid

Immen said she’s come to her conclusions despite growing up off the grid.

“Fuel powering our generators, solar power, and everything else like that was a huge part of my life growing up,” she said. “And I definitely understand the drive toward it and how much money it can genuinely save.”

When she was frustrated with the power going out all the time, she pleaded with her parents to just connect to the grid.

“They broke down for me exactly how much money they were saving that way,” she said. “And it was huge, it was a huge thing in my childhood that opened my eyes. So I understand the draw for renewable energy.”

The Wyoming Public Service Commission listens testimony about proposed Rocky Mountain Power rate increases.
The Wyoming Public Service Commission listens testimony about proposed Rocky Mountain Power rate increases. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

Not A 100% Solution

However, she also doesn’t believe that renewables can be a 100% solution, particularly after the research she’s been doing on Rocky Mountain Power’s rate increase. 

That research raised more questions than answers, she said.

“A lot of it didn’t quite add up for me on it saving them all this money,” she said. “But they want to outsource some of their jobs, they want to shift electricity and power to other places and make Wyoming pay for it. And what it sounded to me like is they are putting the people of Wyoming at the brunt of it all.”

She also doesn’t understand how it can be saving that much money if electricity rates are jumping 30%.

“They want to openly ensure that they themselves as a company don’t have financial responsibility in terms of this,” she said. “And if they’re so sure that all of this will work, it would make sense to me that they would prove that by having financial responsibility, instead of putting all of it on the people of Wyoming.”

Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Renée Jean

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