Gov: Tax wind power By DUSTIN BLEIZEFFER - Star-Tribune energy reporter | Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 12:00 am | (4) Comments
Gov. Dave Freudenthal is pushing several bills to regulate the wind energy industry. Chief among them are a $3 per megawatt hour excise tax, and a temporary suspension of eminent domain powers to "merchant" energy companies that want to connect wind turbines to the electrical grid.
The governor said he is supporting four separate bills dealing with wind energy, two of which originate from the Legislature's Task Force on Wind Energy, which was created at the end of the 2009 legislative session. He also said he's asking for $25,000 in the budget to continue the work of the task force for another year.
Freudenthal announced the legislative measures during a media conference on Monday in which he described the budding wind energy industry as the "du jour" energy choice of the moment, "ever since you had Al Gore and 'An Inconvenient Truth.'"
Wind energy became a wedge between neighbors in Wyoming last year, separating those landowners who stand to benefit from the development and those who will only see their views obscured by wind turbines and power lines. Freudenthal and others have accused the industry of running amok before the state has a chance to modify its rules to fit an industry it never anticipated.
Cheryl Riley, executive director of the Wyoming Power Producers Coalition, said her group is reserving comment on the governor's proposals and will continue to work with the governor's staff and state legislators on the issues.
"It's the very beginning of the deliberation," Riley said.
Here's a breakdown of the legislative proposals announced by the governor:
* Retool the Wyoming Industrial Information and Siting Act to include wind farms of 30 turbines or more. Developers of such projects would be required to provide bonding or other financial assurances to ensure decommissioning and reclamation.
* Provide minimum state standards, such as buffer zones between wind turbines and other existing facilities. Counties would be allowed to provide their standards that go beyond the state's minimum requirements.
* Impose a $3 per megawatt hour excise tax on wind energy produced in Wyoming, which compares to about a 5 percent severance tax on minerals. This includes a provision to send 40 percent of the revenues to local governments and 60 percent to the state General Fund.