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Oklahoma Senate unanimously approves bills limiting wind industry tax incentives

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday voted 45-0 to approve a pair of bills that would limit tax incentives for the wind energy industry.

Both measures were authored by Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa. Senate Bill 498 modifies an ad-valorem tax exemption for manufacturing used by wind companies; SB 501 establishes a five-year step-down for zero emission tax credits and sets a $6 million annual cap statewide.

The Oklahoma House unanimously approved similar legislation earlier this month.

The cost of wind industry tax credits has boomed along with Oklahoma’s wind industry, which is one of the biggest in the country. In a statement, Mazzei said the cost of wind incentives could swell to $700 million over a 10-year period.

In a February interview with StateImpact, Mazzei, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said wind industry subsidies are a bad deal for Oklahoma taxpayers, especially when the state is facing a $600 million budget gap.

“We certainly can’t afford these giveaways of taxpayer money anymore,” he said.

Jeff Clark with the pro-industry Wind Coalition says Mazzei’s legislation, as written, is too severe.

“The level of reductions in the current form would drive development out of the state,” he said. Clark is optimistic that Mazzei and other lawmakers, including Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville – who has written legislation concerning turbine siting and tax credits, and is carrying Mazzei’s bills in the House – will continue to work with wind companies on finding a middle ground.

“We’ve said from the beginning that we’re not against reasonable rules and regulations,” Clark said.

SB 498 and SB 501 now go to the House for consideration.