It’s an issue that’s still blowing in the wind, but perhaps not for long.
Wind rights legislation – particularly that which supports wind rights being unsevered from property ownership – is an issue that’s expected to draw attention as 2012 draws nearer, state and local politicians say.
Colorado currently doesn’t have state laws regarding wind as a property right, leaving it up to individual contracts between energy companies and landowners to figure out how wind industry development is handled.
But wind laws are likely to become a focal point in the near future for a state that will require investor-owned utilities and cooperatives to provide 30 percent of their 2020 electricity through renewable and/or recycled energy, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
“This is an industry that, no doubt, has plans to grow, locally and across the state,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, who has been part of Colorado County Inc. meetings that have discussed the development of a wind rights policy. “As much growth as is predicted, good policies probably need to be put in place.”
Conway sat in on CCI meetings regarding the topic as recently as Thursday. He said the CCI will continue holding meetings to discuss various policies, including the wind rights issue, in efforts to develop legislation it can present to state lawmakers when they convene for their regular session starting in January.
“It’s still in the early stages right now, but there is definitely a lot of movement right now toward creating some kind of policy that recognizes wind as a property right,” Conway said. “But right now, it’s just a lot of listening and learning.”
In 2010, a bill that would have made the wind blowing across your land a private property right unto itself failed to pass in the Colorado House of Representatives after a state study said the bill would have created a new way to tax landowners.
Like the CCI is doing now, the Colorado Farm Bureau has also made wind rights a policy priority heading into 2012. The issue was brought up at the organizations’s Mid-Summer Meeting in Greeley last month, when the group honed its political agenda and the need for wind rights made the final presentations of various committees.
Particularly, the Colorado Farm Bureau committees requested a state law that recognizes wind as a property right that’s unsevered from the land – unlike the House’s proposal in 2010.
In Colorado, mineral and water rights are already severed from the surface.
“If someone else owns the water and mineral rights on your property, it doesn’t give you a lot of say in what goes on your land,” said Phyllis Snyder of Cortez, who served as the spokeswoman for the Crops Committee during the Colorado Farm Bureau’s Mid-Summer Meeting. “We don’t want the wind industry contributing to that problem.”
In addition to complicating operations and legalities on property, severed water and mineral rights also can create tax problems, said Greg Brophy, a Republican member of the Colorado Senate from Yuma County, who serves on the state’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
As he explained, the taxation of less valuable water or mineral rights can sometimes cost a county more to process those taxes than it receives in revenue.
“I just really wish we didn’t allow severed mineral and water rights,” he said.
As Brophy explained, finding a wind rights solution that will work for everyone won’t be easy.
“It’s a very complicated industry,” Brophy said. “But I’m anxious to see what these groups present to us, and see what can be put together.
“There’s going to be a lot of interesting conversation in the near future.”
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