Oklahoma faces a budget shortfall of at least $300 million that could easily exceed $500 million. Yet we’re blowing up to $193 million annually on subsidies for industrial wind companies. That money would be better spent funding core government services such as education.
The Legislature is considering several bills to address the way this state subsidizes and regulates industrial wind companies.
Key proposals would:
Gradually reduce the amount of zero-emissions tax subsidies for new industrial wind facilities and require approval by the Legislature to reauthorize in 2020.
Establish a $6 million statewide cap for the zero-emissions tax subsidy.
Prevent industrial wind facilities from double-dipping on subsidies. Oklahoma provides three different tax subsidies and has what’s considered to be the most generous wind production subsidy program in the U.S.
Adjust the state property tax policy to remove a special exemption for industrial wind that releases companies from a job-creation requirement other industries must meet.
Create sensible laws to govern how close turbines are placed to homes, hospitals, schools, airports and highways, and enforce standards to ensure that turbines are safely constructed, maintained and operated.
Require adequate funding mechanisms for industrial wind to pay for the removal of abandoned turbines rather than state government picking up the tab.
You will hear a lot of deceptive rhetoric by Big Wind that it creates jobs, contributes to the economy and conserves water. But the size of Oklahoma’s subsidies for wind has grown well beyond the industry’s contributions to the state. For example, the amount of electricity that wind produced in 2013 cost Oklahoma $97 million in ad valorem exemptions and zero-emission tax subsidies. Instead, had we tapped into our abundant resource of natural gas (a clean form of energy) to generate that electricity, state government would have gotten $16.4 million in additional tax revenue.
Wind power advocates also claim they save consumers money. Because industrial wind companies already received state and federal subsidies, the electricity rates on consumers’ bills may appear lower; but that’s only because taxpayers have already paid for the subsidies with higher taxes, something not shown on the bills. Much of our subsidized power is sold outside the state, meaning we pay part of the electric bill for consumers in places such as Texas and Tennessee.
Taxpayers are facing an unfunded liability that intensifies with each blank check we write to support the development of industrial wind facilities. Oklahoma has 29 industrial wind projects in operation; as many as 25 more are in various stages of planning or construction.
The industry generally claims it will cease to exist if we implement these laws. However, any industry that consumes rather than contributes and refuses to be governed by a few basic regulatory guidelines to keep citizens safe and Oklahoma’s budget balanced isn’t good for the state.
I applaud legislators for addressing this important issue. I hope we’ll put an end to Big Wind cashing in on our future.
Robson is a member of the Oklahoma Property Rights Association and Windwaste.
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