A handful of Wyoming lawmakers say the state should receive a share of federal fees on wind and solar projects.
A joint resolution sponsored by Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and five other lawmakers would urge the U.S. Congress to pass legislation granting states 50 percent for any rent or right-of-way fees for such projects on federal land.
For proponents there is no downside to the change. It would not increase the tax and fee burden on wind developers but would add to state revenue during a time of decline.
Fossil fuel and geothermal development fees on public lands already contribute to the states where they are built. However, Wyoming doesn’t receive any of the fees now collected by the federal government on wind projects.
Driskill asks why wind should be any different.
“Everything gets exported to Washington in some way, like we’re some colony rather than being a state,” he said. “They need to understand that they need to share with us.”
Federal Land Wind and Solar Energy Revenue – State Share is also a reflection of lawmakers’ growing interest in how wind development should fit into the state’s revenue portfolio. Another bill this session will consider raising the wind tax. Wyoming’s traditional resources – oil, gas and coal – are well established, contributing up to 70 percent of the state’s tax income. Those sources are also struggling through an economic valley while wind and solar become cheaper to produce.
Renewables are uncharted ground, Driskill said.
“It brings us closer to the process as far as what’s happening in our own state,” the senator said. “Wyoming needs to play an active role in what its future is and how it’s done and not just follow the federal government around.”
Developers continue to eye Wyoming as a potential wind boon, despite some challenges with transmission and permitting hurdles. Rocky Mountain Power has a number of farms operating to provide electricity in Wyoming and other states.
The legislation would also apply to projects like the Chokecherry Sierra Madre Energy farm in Carbon County, which – once permitted and constructed – will be the home to 1,000 turbines. The massive project resides on a checkerboard of state, federal and private land.
Though it remains to be seen how Wyoming lawmakers will respond to the resolution, Driskill expects many will show support.
“I would think it’s just common sense if you’re from Wyoming,” he said. “Wyoming gets its fair share. It’s kind of a slam dunk.”
Of course, the resolution would also need to find favor in Washington, D.C.
Driskill hopes Wyoming’s plea will be considered by the majority Republican Congress and an incoming president who has professed solidarity with business and industry.
“I feel like we’ve got a good chance to be heard,” Driskill said. “I’m not saying we’re going to be, but we have a good chance. This is one that makes it clear to Congress that Wyoming wants its seat at the table with the federal government.”
If the resolution is successful, Wyoming’s Secretary of State’s Office will share it with president-elect Donald Trump, congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., and Wyoming’s own delegation: Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Rep. Liz Cheney.
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