May 30, 2015
Oklahoma, Opinions

Robson: Good winds blowing

By Frank Robson, Guest Columnist | The Journal Record | May 29, 2015 |

I applaud the Oklahoma Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin for implementing much-needed reform of the wind industry, addressing both excessive subsidies and lack of regulation for protection of property owners. The progress made this year is important in establishing a regulatory framework. Yet there is still work to do.

Senate Bill 808 by state Sen. Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, signed by Fallin on April 17, established a 1.5-nautical-mile setback of wind turbines from schools, airports and hospitals and provides a stronger decommissioning statute that protects landowners and taxpayers from being financially responsible for taking down turbines at the end of their life. The legislation also requires notification to landowners at least six months before construction begins.

The new law doesn’t take into consideration protection of wind turbines from homes, neighborhoods, public parks and other land where natural habitat may be disturbed. We hope the Legislature will consider the need for further requirements that address reasonable restrictions on the placement of wind turbines near other areas of public safety concern.

Senate Bill 498 by state Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, and Sears, signed May 20, repeals the ability of the wind industry to qualify for a five-year property tax exemption. This provides a good start in addressing the magnitude of industrial wind’s subsidies and negative impact on Oklahoma’s budget.

Senate Bill 502 by state Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, and Sears, signed May 20, repeals the ability of the wind industry to qualify for the new jobs investment tax credit effective Jan. 1, 2017. This eliminates an unnecessary and potentially costly subsidy for an industry that creates few jobs here.

Wind developers may still qualify for zero-emission tax credits, which amount to $5 per megawatt-hour for all electricity produced from industrial wind facilities for 10 years. The current law saddles Oklahoma taxpayers with this burden for all wind facilities built prior to Jan. 1, 2021. Payment of subsidies under this program may extend until Dec. 31, 2030.

We look forward to continued forthright discussions with state leadership regarding the need for further safety regulations, and the need to evaluate the legitimacy of the remaining subsidies available to industrial wind. Let’s continue to make progress for the betterment of Oklahoma.

Frank Robson is a member of the Oklahoma Property Rights Association.

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