There have been many developments in Wyoming’s wind legislation. Though not all bills have passed, they have created a conversation between wind-industry representatives and state officials, who know the economic potential of their state’s wind resource and so are paying attention. Their discussions center mostly around these topics:
The Wyoming House of Representatives recently considered a bill that would have tripled the state’s tax on wind-power generation from $1 to $3/MW. Existing wind farms would pay the $1/MWh excise tax when it takes effect in 2012. A sales tax exemption on renewable-energy equipment is set to expire at the end of this year. Those in the wind industry supported the bill, which would also have ended the state sales tax on equipment used in wind farm construction. It would also have changed the way that tax revenue would be distributed and create a $15 million impact-assistance account to help local governments pay for infrastructure costs associated with wind energy projects. Supporters said the proposal would bring in more revenue for state and local governments than the current tax system.
However, the bill failed to pass. Opponents expressed concern about letting an industry still reliant on federal subsidies pay taxes over a number of years instead of up front. However, that doesn’t mean officials who voted against the bill were voting against wind development. State Rep. Jeb Steward disputed claims by some wind groups that shooting down the legislation would deter wind companies from building projects in Wyoming. “Let’s not talk about hypothetical situations. Nobody’s packing their bags and moving out of Wyoming. We just got the best wind in the country.”
Eminent domain extension
The House recently approved a proposed two-year extension of the state’s moratorium on wind developers’ eminent-domain powers. The eminent-domain-extension legislation, House Bill 230, passed the House 53-6 without debate. Some lawmakers said allowing the current one-year moratorium to expire on June 30 would raise landowners’ wariness of eminent domain when dealing with wind developers on land leases to build collector lines. Other legislators said they needed more time to study the issue. Still, other lawmakers questioned why the state should prohibit wind developers from using eminent domain when other industries are still allowed to employ such powers.
Wind property rights bill
A proposal that would prevent landowners from selling wind rights separate from the rest of the property recently passed the House. Senate File 22 would designate wind as a property right similar to surface and mineral rights. Landowners can set up wind energy agreements with developers, and the lease would be canceled if wind generation stops long enough or development never occurs. The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports the state Senate must agree with changes made by the House before the bill can head to the governor’s desk.
Right to know
Landowners would be able to get more information about wind development on their property under a bill advancing at the Wyoming Capitol. A House committee backed Senate Bill 58 recently, sending it to the full House for consideration. The Wyoming Tribune Eagle says the bill would give landowners the right to know about the development process for wind turbines and collector systems. Opponents say neighboring landowners could also be affected and may want the same information.
Filed Under: Policy, Projects