The Carbon County Council of Governments (CCCOG) met in person on March 31 at the Carbon County Coordination Center (C4) in Rawlins.
The meeting had originally been scheduled on March 15 but, due to weather, was rescheduled. While the meeting had originally been scheduled to be held in Hanna, it was moved to the C4 so elected officials could see the new command center.
Nearly all Carbon County municipalities were represented with the exception of Hanna, Medicine Bow and Riverside.
Kara Choquette, Director, Communications and Government Relations for Power Company of Wyoming LLC and TransWest Express was a guest speaker.
She congratulated Carbon County for being on the front page of the March 4 New York Times.
“That was a pretty cool surprise,” Choquette said. “I always rejoice when Carbon County gets attention and this got attention from all around the world. (Rawlins) Mayor (Terry) Weikum can talk about that more than I can.”
She said the article was getting attention at the highest levels of government, including with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
“She did an interview on CBS and there was a two minute snippet devoted to Carbon County,” Choquette said. “I thought that was excellent to get so much national coverage.”
Weikum said it all started because he has testified to the Wyoming Legislature 18 times about wind energy and taxation. He was also the chairman of the Wind Task Force Committee for the Wyoming County Commissioners Association.
“One day I got a call from a lady from the New York Times,” Weikum said. “I told her, ‘your great outdoors is the city block with a couple trees’. I told her she needed to come out here and look. And she did.”
Weikum said he did not expect the article to be on the front page.
Since the article came out, he has done several interviews with news organizations from around the world.
“It really has been an experience and quite fun to put the spotlight on Rawlins and Carbon County,” Weikum said. “It really has been an experience.”
Choquette said March 4 was also a good day for wind energy in the Wyoming Legislature.
The House Revenue Committee voted 7-2 against House Bill 108 and House Bill 94.
House Bill 108 was yet another attempt by the certain legislators to increase the tax on wind energy produced in the state. The bill was sponsored by several legislators including perennial wind energy tax proponent Senator Cale Case (R – Lander) and Senator Larry Hicks (R – Baggs). The bill proposed to increase wind energy tax by an additional dollar per megawatt (MW) hour produced in Wyoming.
House Bill 94, similarly, would have levied an excise tax on any electricity generated through wind or solar energy resources for sale or trade. While the bill did not list a specific amount to be taxed, it directed that any wind or solar energy producer would be required to pay the tax. This bill was also sponsored by Case.
She added that House Bill 28, which would have removed the three year tax exemption for wind energy produced in Wyoming, failed to be introduced into the House of Representatives. This bill was drafted by the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee.
Choquette said Wyoming added 1,123 MW of total new wind power capacity in 2020, the first big burst of wind power investment in 10 years. In quarter four of 2020, 895 MW of new wind capacity was installed in Wyoming with over half of that—455 MW—in Carbon County.
Choquette said as encouraging as all this was, Wyoming was still far behind in MW production compared to other states. In 2019, Texas ranked number one and produced a cumulative capacity of 28,871 MW. Iowa ranked second and produced 10,201 MW. Wyoming is ranked 17th at 1,589 MW. Even with new output Colorado and North Dakota out rank Wyoming, coming in at number eight and nine respectively.
Choquette said there was an opportunity Wyoming and Carbon County could take advantage of.
“The excerpt from the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act (PLREDA) of 2019 that includes a local revenue-sharing provision. Congress decided in this legislation to distribute 25 percent to the state and 25 percent to the county,” Choquette said. “Despite bipartisan support, and with companion bills introduced in the House and Senate, this PLREDA legislation ‘expired’ in the 116th Congress (2019-2020).”
The Senate version can be found at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2666/.
“There is opportunity to move this kind of provision forward in a “new PLREDA” anticipated to be introduced sometime in the 117th Congress,” Choquette said. “The county/CCCOG may wish to express its support for such a provision to your federal representatives.”
The next scheduled meeting for CCCOG will be at 6:30 p.m. on May 19 in Saratoga.
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