Day 6, Wyoming State Legislature, 60th session

By Richard Garrett, Jr.

WIND DEBATE STIRS WYOMING HOUSE…

Taxing Wind Proves Vexing

The House Revenue Committee listened to a sometimes contentious debate Monday morning regarding HB 101, the proposed state tax on wind energy production (http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2010/Titles/HB0101.htm).

The bill is officially described as follows:

AN ACT relating to taxation and revenue; imposing a tax upon the production of electricity from wind resources as specified; providing for administration, imposition, enforcement and distribution as specified; providing applicability; and providing for an effective date.

The committee heard its chair, Rep. Rodney “Pete” Anderson, of Laramie County, announce 3 key amendments to the bill as originally authored.

(It’s worth noting that this bill is one of four key pieces of wind-energy-related bills that are supported by the governor.)

Here is a description of those amendments:

(1) Lower the rate of the proposed excise tax from $3 to $1 per megawatt hour.

(2) Distribute all proceeds from the tax to affected counties on a proportional basis–the bill as originally proposed would have split
revenues 40/60 between the counties and the state, respectively.

(3) Make the tax effective in 2012 and further provide for no excise tax on a wind farm development during its first three years of
operation.

After enduring more than an hour of at times contradictory testimony, the committee voted to approve amendments 1 and 3 but kept in place the revenue split that amendment 2 would have modified.

The committee heard from a number of special interests on the bill including Rocky Mountain Power, Duke Energy (represented by Larry Wolfe of Holland and Hart), Carbon and Natrona county commissioners, land owners, BP America, Wasatch Wind and the Wyoming Power Producer’s Coalition.

Almost uniformly, they spoke in rather tepid support of the bill conditioned on the passage of each of the three amendments. With the failure of amendment 2–the amendment that would have directed all money collected to affected counties on a proportional basis–it’s hard to predict how these key stakeholders will treat the bill that was finally approved out of the committee; their lukewarm support may well evaporate.

SOUND FAMILIAR?

It’s interesting to note that those in opposition to the bill employed a familiar tactic in urging the committee to vote against the tax–each warned that if taxed, the nascent wind energy industry would surely leave Wyoming. The Wyoming Legislature has heard this tactic over and over again through the years from other energy producers. To date, none of those industries have left the state.

And given the abundance of world-class wind with which Wyoming is scoured every day, it seems unlikely that the wind energy industry will find haven on a windier shore.

The bill will now go to the House for a hearing by the Committee of the Whole. Its passage there will mean that it goes on to the Senate where many of the same characters will reassemble and offer the same arguments anew.

BY THE WAY…

The last component of the four wind energy bills has been introduced and will be heard by the House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee this week–it’s HB0079, sponsored by Rep. Kermit Brown.

This bill will impose a moratorium on the exercise of the power of eminent domain by merchant wind generators (those who produce energy solely for export to other states).

Contact: Richard Garrett, Jr., energy and legislative advocate, Wyoming Outdoor Council, 307-332-7031 x18; richard@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org.

Posted in *All posts, Activities, Capitol blog

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