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County looks to prohibit alternative energy tax breaks  

Cattaraugus County lawmakers will vote Wednesday on a measure that would prohibit property tax exemptions for commercial wind and solar energy power systems.

The County Legislature meets at 3 p.m. in the Legislature chambers on the third floor of the County Center.

As written, the local law would also apply to farm waste energy systems. It would not affect the assessment of homeowners with residential solar or wind energy systems.

“This is the way to go,” said cosponsor James Boser, D-Allegany, vice chairman of the Legislature’s Development and Agriculture Committee. “It was held in committee earlier, but the questions we had were answered.”

By opting out of offering exemptions of county taxes in commercial solar, wind and farm waste projects, developers will have to go through the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency, which can negotiate payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreements, Mr. Boser said.

The financing through IDA tax-exempt bonds is good for the companies that know what their outlays will be over a long period of time, and good for the counties and other municipalities involved because they know what to expect in revenues from the project, Mr. Boser said.

Without this action, under some circumstances, wind farm developers could avoid property taxes, Mr. Boser explained.

“Right now,” he said, “no one is interested in siting (wind turbines) in Cattaraugus County in the next two years. It’s a lengthy process before the company is ready to go.”

“There is no disadvantage to the county to do this,” he said. “It’s one of those things you want to be ready for.”

When the issue was first raised several months ago, one question involved whether prohibiting exemptions would apply to farm waste to energy systems called methane digesters.

“There are none of those (projects) in the county,” Mr. Boser noted.

A methane digester system could cost $1 million or more.

Mr. Boser said questions regarding the local law were answered during a recent meeting with Industrial Development Agency officials, and a wind turbine forum sponsored by Southern Tier West that included a tour of a wind farm in the town of Eagle in Wyoming County.

By Rick Miller

Olean Times Herald

27 November 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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