Panel hears pros, cons of wind energy incentives

Source: By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau • Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY — A Senate panel on Tuesday heard the benefits and disadvantages of millions of dollars in state incentives that go to the wind industry.

The location of wind farms has been an issue at the Capitol. A measure by Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, would have put a moratorium on wind farms east of Interstate 35. The measure was not heard in the Oklahoma House.

Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, requested the interim study on incentives the state gives to the industry. He was not present at the interim study but was listening online. Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, read an opening statement from Mazzei.

“Projections from the Oklahoma Tax Commission indicate that the total cost to Oklahoma taxpayers for subsidizing Oklahoma wind power in 2013 exceeded $44 million,” the statement said. “By 2018, they project the amount could reach over $66 million.”

Oklahoma has invested about $120 million for a $6.1 billion return brought by wind developers in the state, said Jeff Clark, executive director of the Wind Coalition, a trade group.

“There is no cap or control over the amount of wind development in Oklahoma and consequentially there is no cap or control over the amount of tax credits the state will become obligated for,” said Rick Mosier of the Oklahoma Property Rights Association. “They are a blank check which we can’t afford.”

The Oklahoma Property Rights Association said there needs to be more regulation of the industry. It has complained that the location of some wind farms infringes on the rights of adjacent property owners who have no say in such matters.

Mosier said he believes the incentives will cost more than projections made by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. In addition, the jobs and economic activity created by the industry have been inflated, he said.

Clark said the incentives encourage the industry to build in Oklahoma. Without the incentives, industry officials would choose to take advantage of incentives in other states.

Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, asked Clark when the industry could stand on its own in Oklahoma.

“Probably when they end incentives for everyone else,” Clark said.

Oklahoma provides an array of financial incentives to various industries, including the oil and gas industry.

“The incentives you offer are key to keeping Oklahoma competitive,” Clark said.

The industry is willing to work with the state on the incentives, which began when the industry was in its infancy, Clark said.

Benefits of the industry include reduced costs for electricity produced in the state without the use of water and without emissions, Clark said.

But Mosier said, “A regulatory framework for the placement and construction of wind farms is absolutely imperative as the regular citizen has nobody to turn to when thing go awry. Non-participating landowners have no appeal except to the courts in their battles with large, multi-national corporations.”