Standing tall above Interstate 235 in Oklahoma City, four new billboards are turning heads.
They say the state gives away million in tax credits and leaves money uncollected when it comes to Oklahoma’s expanding wind energy industry.
The ads claim as much as $242 million a year goes to foreign companies in Germany, Venezuela and others. Another ad claims money is also going to out of state companies in neighboring states like Texas.
The group behind the billboards is still unclear, but several News 9 sources are pointing to a new group calling itself the Windfall Coalition being backed by Continental Energy CEO Harold Hamm. News 9 was unable to reach anyone at the coalition on Tuesday.
According to the Oklahoma State Secretary’s office, the group was not yet registered with the state.
Hamm has previously stood against the wind industry and called for a production tax with a longtime friend Frank Robson, who founded several anti-wind energy groups.
The signs were put up just two weeks after State Auditor Gary Jones wrote a scathing piece in the Tulsa World calling the subsidies “nothing short of a giveaway.”
In the piece, Jones said the state lost $88 million in tax credits, $44 million in sales taxes that were supposed to go to schools and $67 million in sales tax exemptions.
However, the Oklahoma Tax Commission could not back the numbers completely. According to the Commission, the first two of Jones’ figures over shoot by nearly $20 million each and the OTC doesn’t even track sales tax exemption for wind companies as manufacturers.
A spokesperson with Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association said in an email to News 9 the group supports Windfall Coalition’s mission.
“Energy production, from both established sources like natural gas and emerging technologies like wind and solar, deserves a fair regulatory and tax environment – an even playing field. Oil and natural gas producers are not opposed to tax policies that encourage investment, but are opposed to a tax structure that devalues one of our state’s most valuable resources,” they said.
“Why are they doing this? Because they can,” Wind Coalition Executive Director Jeff Clark said. “It’s a small group of people who are confused about the value of wind energy to the state.”
Clark added he’s no stranger to tactics like this but said the billboards are only trying to delay what he sees as a coming storm.
“America is moving toward a new energy economy. The future energy economy is going to be led by natural gas and renewables,” Clark said.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Oklahoma ranked fourth in the country for wind energy production last year and nearly 17 percent of homes are powered, at least in part, by electricity produced by wind power.