Oregon lawmakers question state Department of Energy staff on tax credits for Shepherds Flat wind farm
The director and staffers at the Oregon Department of Energy faced sharp questions from lawmakers at a Tuesday hearing regarding their approval of three separate $10 million tax credits for the Shepherds Flat wind farm in eastern Oregon.
The backers of Shepherds Flat sliced and diced the massive wind farm into three entities on paper to qualify for $30 million in subsidies from Oregon taxpayers. An investigation by The Oregonian this summer, however, concluded that the three phases of the wind farm did not meet the state’s definition of separate and distinct facilities and therefore was eligible for only one state tax credit.
ODOE did not offer any new factual information at the hearing to support its separate and distinct determination, but reiterated questionable assertions that the project was owned, financed and constructed as three separate entities.
ODOE also offered a letter from the Oregon Department of Justice to support its conclusions.
Again, the Justice Department memo offered no new factual information, but said ODOE had broad discretion to interpret state statutes and administrative rules. The memo said that ODOE could make a good faith legal argument that Shepherds Flat was three separate and distinct facilities based on representations that the wind farm’s owners made in their initial application for tax credits.
Issuance of the final tax credits is defensible, the DOJ’s memo said, “but it entails some risk but the department’s determination could be overturned based on arguments that the Shepherds Flat facilities are not separate and distinct facilities. However, we consider this a minimal legal risk for the agency” due to the fact that it’s unlikely anyone with legal standing would challenge the ruling.
Read Oregonlive later today and Wednesday’s Oregonian for a full report from the hearing.
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