The Joint Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee voted to sponsor and move forward with a bill that would effectively raise the tax on generating wind energy in Wyoming. The bill removes the three year tax exemption given to companies before a $1 per megawatt hour tax sets in.
The committee heard over two hours of testimony, most of which was opposed to the bill. Developers, advocates, local businesses and residents argued the industry is a bright revenue spot and requires a stable tax environment.
Clayton Miech works in haul trucking in Casper. He said he used to work in oil and gas, but has recently turned to wind, "and if Wyoming becomes uncompetitive for wind development, it would most definitely hurt our business here in Casper."
Tom Darin, senior director of western state affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, said many wind projects have already passed through the state's industrial siting process. If they're built that would be $1.5 billion at the current tax rate.
"What is at risk is our 17 years of $1 per megawatt hour under the current structure to try to gain three more to eliminate that grace period. Do we really want to risk 17 to try to gain three?" Darin asked the committee.
After public testimony, Casper Senator Charlie Scott said legislators will need a wide variety of budget options at the next session, "because if we eliminate all the ones where industry comes crying, all that's going to be left is general taxes on the people who can't afford to hire a lobbyist."
Scott said cuts will need to come first to justify a tax, but urged members to vote for this bill.
Cheyenne Senator Tara Nethercott said she believed this bill would pull the rug out from under industry. She pushed to amend the bill to grandfather projects already underway into the current system. The motion passed.
The bill will be considered in the next legislative session.