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Wyo. Power Plant Stalls 17 Years, Faces Skepticism

Enzi said he didn't know what happened and referred questions about the stimulus funding to Michael Ruffatto, president of North American Power Group, who did not return phone messages.

Representatives from the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., and the department's National Energy Technology Lab in Morgantown, W.Va., which oversaw the project, declined to comment. They referred all questions to an assistant U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh who declined to comment.

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On Monday, the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council, a state citizen panel, will consider a seventh permit extension in 16 years for Two Elk. If approved, completion is targeted in 2016, or 19 years after Two Elk's first industrial siting permit.

The panel considers the impacts large industrial projects would have on surrounding communities. If it denies another extension, Two Elk really could be No Elk. Nothing in Wyoming that big can be built without an industrial siting permit.

A lot can change after so much time, and it's time for a full review, said Sandy Shuptrine, the Industrial Siting Council member who requested the upcoming permit extension meeting.

"It's definitely the longest-delayed project that I'm aware of," she said.

Fifteen miles down the road from Two Elk, the coal town of Wright, population 1,800, has been booming thanks to gas, oil and uranium development. The population is up by a third since 2000, making it one of Wyoming's fastest-growing towns. A $10 million recreation center, funded largely by taxes on the minerals industry, is on track for completion this year.

Told that a permit extension for Two Elk is coming up, several townspeople expressed surprise the project was even alive still. They hadn't heard about it in years, they said.

"There might be two elk out there somewhere," joked Tamera Van Vleet as she socialized at Hank's Roadside Bar and Grill on the outskirts of town.

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