Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

Pattern Energy Group LP (Pattern Energy) recently announced the Grand Opening of its Western Spirit Wind power facilities. Western Spirit Wind is comprised of four wind power projects located in Guadalupe, Lincoln, and Torrance Counties in central New Mexico, totaling more than 1,050 megawatts (MW) of clean power capacity, enough to meet the electricity needs of 900,000 Americans each year.

“The Western Spirit Transmission Line literally rewrote the energy landscape in New Mexico—allowing us to build four new utility-scale wind projects in central and eastern New Mexico that make up the largest single-phase wind project in all of North America.” U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich said about the project.

Pattern says Western Spirit Wind will have far-reaching economic benefits for the local area and is projected to provide an estimated $3 million per year for the three counties and two school districts in the project area. Taking a page from oil and gas PR, Pattern said “stable, long-term funding directly contributes to improved quality of education, services, roads and first responder capabilities for the entire community.”

 “The energy we receive from Western Spirit will power 186,000 San José homes annually with clean, pollution-free electricity for the next 15 years,” said San José Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Pattern Energy says it is “guided by a long-term commitment to serve customers, protect the environment, and strengthen communities.” Will they stay if New Mexicans have a constitutional right to clean air, water and a healthy environment? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.

At the recent legislative session, Pattern stood in opposition to the Green Amendment which sought to give New Mexicans a constitutional right to clean air, water and a healthy environment.

“We appreciate the intent of the sponsor for bringing it forward but we have direct experience with this type of law and understand the potential outcomes. Pattern was developing a large global project in Montana, but a large Texas billionaire that owned a ranch opposed the project and sued the participating landowners in the wind project and was granted an injunction by the court. This created enough uncertainty that we decided not to continue pursuing the development,” said Marco Gonzalez, lobbyist for Pattern Energy

“We’re concerned that this will weaponize opponents of infrastructure development including renewable energy and stop our transition to renewables and are also concerned that this will put at risk an estimated $6 billion of additional renewable investment Pattern has planned for New Mexico,” Gonzalez said.

On September 28, 2018 in Montana, “Neighbors” filed a complaint in the Sixth Judicial District Court claiming, among other things, that construction of a wind farm by Pattern constituted a private, public, and anticipatory nuisance and was seeking both damages and injunctive relief.

Neighbors’ claims arose from the development of the projected Pattern’s wind farm, known as Crazy Mountain Wind (CMW), and counterclaims arose from Neighbors’ alleged misuse and abuse of the litigation process.

CMW would have consisted of 22 wind turbines configured into four rows. According to testimony and renderings of the project, each turbine would have a maximum height of approximately 492 feet and be visible for miles, including from Neighbors’ properties and from one Neighbor’s residence.

It had taken a yearlong review of the CMW project for the Montana Public Service Commission to approve the wind farm. Neither Sweet Grass nor Park counties had zoning in the area where the wind farm was to be located that would prevent the development.

Park County Commissioner Steve Caldwell stated that the only interaction the county has had with CMW was to issue a road improvement plan. Caldwell said the company also asked about tax abatements but the county declined.

The court’s preliminary injunction rendered Pattern unable to obtain the necessary financing to complete the wind project and to satisfy certain contractual obligations, and it was compelled to abandon development of the wind farm. Because it could no longer obtain the requisite financing, Pattern terminated the wind farm project and was dismissed from the lawsuit

CMW was small potatoes compared to Pattern’s New Mexico Western Spirit Wind’s four wind power facilities. They comprise a total of 377 GE wind turbines ranging from 2.3 to 2.8 MW in size. The GE turbines utilize various tower heights to optimize the wind capture at each facility.

In the spring of 2020 Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) acquired Pattern Energy Group in a deal valued at $6.1bn, including its net debt. The Pattern buyout created a single enterprise controlled by Riverstone and the Canada Pension Plan Investment board.

Riverstone is an energy and power-focused private investment firm with over $39 billion of capital raised.  The Company, through its subsidiaries, focuses on oil and gas exploration, midstream pipelines, electricity generation, energy and power services and technology, and renewable energy infrastructure and technology. It is also engaged in the manufacturing and distribution of products such as finger cots, packaging bags, and face masks.

The Paper spoke with attorney Maya van Rossum, the “Mother” of the Green Amendment, about Pattern’s concerns. She said there is “no relationship” between the two. “This case in Montana is based on a claim of nuisance having nothing to do with the constitution. It was a red herring designed to distract. The opposition lawmakers in New Mexico got their talking points and ran with them – didn’t matter that it was false and irrelevant information because the point was not accuracy, the point was just to put up false flags to distract,” said van Rossum.

Will Pattern stay if the Land of Enchantments’ constitution has a Green Amendment? Listen to the wind blowing across our vast empty high desert plateaus.