Cheyenne State Senate Candidates Divided Over Gigantic Facebook (Meta) Data Center

Republicans running for state Senate Districts 4 and 6 clashed Wednesday night over a massive $800 Million Meta (Facebook) data center. The 715,000-square-foot facility will be built in south Cheyenne.

Leo Wolfson

July 11, 20246 min read

Republican candidates for Cheyenne state Senate gather on stage Wednesday evening, July 10, 2024, for a political forum.
Republican candidates for Cheyenne state Senate gather on stage Wednesday evening, July 10, 2024, for a political forum. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)

CHEYENNE — There wasn’t much the Republican state Senate candidates for Districts 4 and 6 in southeast Wyoming didn’t agree on at a Politics In the Park forum Wednesday night.

That is, except for a massive $800 million Meta (Facebook) data center recently unveiled for south Cheyenne, which split the candidates.

Senate District 6 candidate Marc Torriani had the sharpest stance against the 715,000-square-foot facility that’s set to open in 2027. Torriani sees this project as an example of government overstepping its authority to favor a private business over residents.

“I built these things (data centers) for over 25 years,” Torriani said. “They use an enormous amount of water.”

Torriani also cited a 2015 report from by a state water engineer at the time who indicated that Laramie County must be very restrictive about what types of projects are allowed because of the limited supply of water in the area.

Torriani is correct that data centers are known for using huge amounts of water to keep their computers cool, and the electricity to run them. He also mentioned how a number of new subdivisions built in the area also will tap into the water table.

But Maybe Not

About that demand for water, Meta, the company that owns Facebook, signed a development agreement with the city of Cheyenne with a commitment that it will not use any more water than a typical facility of its size.

“His concept of how much water it takes is not accurate,” SD 6 candidate Darin Smith told Cowboy State Daily after the event.

Smith believes Wyoming could also tap into water the state is delivering through the Colorado River Compact to California and other Western states if its own water sourcing becomes severely depleted.

State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, who’s running for reelection to SD 4, mentioned how the 715,000-square-foot facility was designed with low water options in mind and Facebook’s well-publicized commitments to environmental sustainability.

“I think that since Mr. Torriani left, the industry has become significantly more green and more water conscious, including electricity consumption as well because they recognize that’s not sustainable,” she said. “Those companies prefer a more modern business model and want to be sustainable.”

Electricity Issues

Laramie County Republican Party Chairman and SD 6 candidate Taft Love shared similar concerns as Torriani about the data center, but for slightly different reasons.

Love is concerned about the promise that the data center will be heavily reliant on large solar farms in southeast Wyoming.

The project is viewed as one of the largest high-tech investments ever made in the Cowboy State and is widely considered one of the reasons why the nation’s largest energy companies are building sprawling solar farms nearby along the highway leading south to Colorado along South Greeley Highway.

Love considers the amount of money being invested into the project as insignificant because he believes it’s being subsidized through Meta’s green energy goals supported by the federal government through tax credits.

He also questions what these solar farms will do to the rural neighborhoods and communities in Laramie County. Love believes this is where state and local government should be stepping in to advocate for people.

“The verdict is still out on what that’s going to do to Wyoming’s landscape and landowners,” he said. “I believe we should support the Constitution and private property rights need to be protected.”

Torriani also mentioned how the installation of solar farms and wind turbines in other parts of the state have correspondingly raised prices for traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil.

Eric Johnston, who’s also running for SD 6, has concerns if the solar farms provide energy solely to the data center and no one else.

“If they’re going to sell their electricity, they need to be a public utility,” he said.

Wyoming Senate District 6 candidates, from left, top: Eric Johnson, Taft Love and Darin Smith. Bottom: Gregg Smith, Marc Torriani and Kim Withers.
Wyoming Senate District 6 candidates, from left, top: Eric Johnson, Taft Love and Darin Smith. Bottom: Gregg Smith, Marc Torriani and Kim Withers. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)


But Johnston also sees the facility as the American right to free enterprise.

“Where is the world headed? It’s headed to this,” he said. “So, are we going to play or are we not going to play? If we’re going to play, let’s get it organized.”

Smith considers Wyoming one of the best places in the world to have a data center. He believes the facility will help boost production for all sources of energy in Wyoming.

His only concern is that any data centers that come to Wyoming are not connected to countries seen as foreign adversaries to America like the Chinese Communist Party.

Jobs And Opportunity

The data center is projected to employ 100 people long-term and up 1,000 people at peak construction.

SD 6 candidate Kim Withers said the benefits of the business far outweigh the concerns, and she looks at the facility as an addition to the state’s industries and effort to diversify its economy.

“It is bringing about high-tech jobs and it’s improving our tax base,” she said. “It’s really enriching the community, it’s expanding it in population.”

SD 4 candidate Gregg Smith, who’s running against Nethercott, agrees and sees the data center as a way to keep young people in the state.

“It’s good jobs for younger people who would like to leave the state because there’s nothing to do here,” he said. “It’s a job that they want to do and a great opportunity for everybody.”

Love disagrees and said the quantity of jobs at the data center will be “limited” and possibly not stable.

“As our technology gets better, are those 100 jobs for five years down the road or will it be run remotely and we’ll have a few maintenance people on-site?” he questioned.

He also believes questions should be asked about what Wyoming wants its culture to look like and to give fair treatment to all applicants. He mentioned how meat processing plants were rejected in the area because of their drain on resources.

Few Other Differences

There were only subtle differences between the candidates on nearly all other policy points brought up on Wednesday night.

In the six-candidate race for SD 6 to replace conservative firebrand Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, this may mean that voters have to pick a candidate almost solely on personal background and experience.

“I think the indicator of there being so many candidates is that we were underrepresented in our district,” Withers said. “It was a time for a change and a lot of people wanted to step up. We are tired of being ignored and the southeast Wyoming should not be ignored.”

When the candidates were asked their opinion on former President Donald Trump, all gave a positive review of some kind, although most also said he’s far from perfect.

Contact Leo Wolfson at

Wyoming state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne.
Wyoming state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter