CASPER, Wyo. – Duke Energy reached a settlement with the Wyoming Department of Revenue regarding the amount of property tax that it must pay for its wind farms in the state.
The settlement reduces the North Carolina-based company’s 2010 tax bill to $2.5 million from $2.8 million, Duke announced Monday.
Duke reached the settlement in December with the Department of Revenue and then-Gov. David Freudenthal, the company stated in its media release.
“This agreement with the state enables Duke Energy to pay its fair share of property tax for 2009, when we had three Wyoming wind farms in operation and a fourth planned for construction in 2010,” said Duke spokesman Greg Efthimiou, by e-mail.
“The tax revenue our four wind farms contribute year after year means a lot to the communities we serve, so we’re glad to have arrived at the right numbers with the state.”
In the most significant change, the settlement excluded the value of wind turbines purchased but not yet delivered to Duke’s 200-megawatt Top of the World wind farm project in Converse County by the end of 2009.
The wind turbines, which were delivered and put into operation in 2010, will be included in Duke’s 2011 tax bill.
The settlement also slightly lowers the assessed value of Duke’s 29-megawatt Happy Jack and 42-megawatt Silver Sage sites in Laramie County and the 99-megawatt Campbell Hill site, also in Converse County.
Under the agreement, the state government will exclude from its assessment money set aside by Duke to pay for the cost of decommissioning the wind farms at the end of their useful lives.
Duke appealed the tax valuation on its properties last year after it disagreed with the methodology used by the state to determined the taxes. The company claimed it owed about half as much as previously estimated by the company and billed by the state.
The settlement details indicate there won’t be a dramatic reduction in the wind farm property taxes paid by Duke Energy going forward, said Jim Willox, vice chairman of the Converse County Commission.
Converse County is home to both the Campbell Hill and Top of the World sites, and commissioners were concerned about the loss of a lot of tax revenue if the assessments were slashed.
Converse County officials and state legislators thought the company had misrepresented itself in its tax valuation estimates, something disputed by Duke.
With the appeal in progress, Duke’s tax bill for the properties remained in limbo in an escrow account. That means the funds, three-fourths of which go to the school system, also couldn’t fund county costs.
Now those tax dollars can finally roll in.
“That’ll be a benefit to the county and a benefit to the issues we need to take care of, such as roads and things,” Willox said.
In Monday’s media release, Duke officials said they and the Department of Revenue “will continue their dialogue on wind farm property tax assessments,” including examining how intangible assets should be factored into wind farm property values.
“We were glad to see that these two sides were able to reach a compromise on one of the appeals,” Gov. Matt Mead said in an e-mail.
“We don’t feel it would be appropriate for us to comment on the other matter, which is still before the Board of Equalization.”
The dialogue between the local governments and Duke will also continue.
“We’ll continue to go forward and work with them when we can and disagree with them when necessary,” Willox said.
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