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Duke Energy appeals tax bills on wind projects  

Credit:  Associated Press, trib.com 7 September 2010 ~~

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Duke Energy Corp. is appealing the property tax bills on all four of its wind energy projects in Wyoming.

Some state and county officials say they’re unhappy with Duke’s decision to appeal the property tax assessments of more than $40 million on the projects.

The company says it only should pay about half that much on its wind farms: Silver Sage and Happy Jack in Laramie County and Campbell Hill and Top of the World in Converse County.

The bills Duke is protesting are almost identical to the estimates the company itself presented to state regulators when it was seeking approval of the projects, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.

Based on Duke’s testimony to the state’s Industrial Siting Council, Converse County officials had expected to receive $2.8 million in property taxes per year.

Converse County Commission Chairman Ed Werner said Duke has been one of the best companies to work with on the ground. But he said the company’s tax protests now have thrown the county a curve ball.

“We’re saying: ‘You told us that was your best estimate. Are you just stupid, or are you trying to mislead us?'” Werner said.

Duke Energy spokesman Greg Efthimiou said it would be unfair to say the company pulled a bait-and-switch.

“We were asked to provide an estimate, and that’s what we did,” Efthimiou said. “The reason that we are appealing the property tax assessment is due to the methodology for calculating that tax assessment.”

Duke claims the state’s property tax assessments failed to remove intangible costs, which can include long-term contracts for the delivery of power. The company says the state also failed to account for depreciation.

“Duke Energy, like any other wind developer, is obligated to pay its fair share of property tax. And we intend to so,” Efthimiou said.

Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, said it appears the people who testified for Duke Energy were not straightforward with their testimony to the siting council. “And I object to that,” he said.

State lawmakers are studying how to tax the wind energy industry. The Legislature recently passed a $1-per-megawatt-hour generation tax on wind energy. A state tax exemption on sales and use taxes for the industry expires next year.

Schiffer said he believes it’s time to reconsider the tax exemptions.

“Why do they need an exemption?” Schiffer said. “Does anybody think they’re not going to develop in southeast Wyoming?”

Schiffer said the state has found that a tax exemption may not make any difference to drawing new development. “It’s the quality of wind that makes a difference,” he said.

While Duke argues its case with the State Board of Equalization, about half of the $41.7 million that the state says the company owes Laramie and Converse counties remains in escrow.

Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, said he believes counties may possibly launch a protest. He said they could ask the council to reopen a permit and examine whether it should be revoked based on any false materials or statements.

Source:  Associated Press, trib.com 7 September 2010

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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