The Saratoga Sun -

Wind tax gets blown away

Legislators vote down additional wind power tax after joint revenue meeting in Buffalo

 


A tax on energy generated by wind that was proposed earlier in the year by the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee (JRC) was nixed Thursday, removing uncertainty for the builder of the Chokecherry/Sierra Madre windfarm in Carbon County.

When the tax was originally proposed by the JRC, Power Company of Wyoming (PCW), the builder of the windfarm, said such a tax would put the project in jeopardy. Kara Choquette, Communications Director for the company told Carbon County lawmakers in a May meeting that were the tax to be levied, the company might have been forced to abandon the project. The decision not to implement the tax has removed some uncertainty for PCW, who is continuing construction and expects to spend about $10 million on construction over the remainder of this year.

The tax was originally suggested by the JRC in May as it searched for ways to fill state budget gaps. At that time, PCW warned Carbon County lawmakers that were the tax to pass, it might have forced the company to reconsider building the project.

After engaging local lawmakers, the company met with legislators and eventually brought enough of them around to the side of not increasing taxes on wind energy, Bill Miller, CEO of PCW said. Local lawmakers also got involved with the lobbying effort, Miller said.

“We spent a lot of time working with the individual legislators providing them information, and at the end of the day we felt they made the right choice,” Miller said. “They heard very loud and clear from the folks in Carbon County, the folks from the cities and our Carbon County commissioners.”

Earlier this year, the city of Rawlins passed a resolution asking the state legislature to not increase taxes. A similar resolution was passed by the Carbon County Board of Commissioners and the town councils of Hanna, Saratoga and Encampment.

The project is anticipated to be the largest windfarm in North America, and it is estimated that it will contribute $106 million in taxes to the state, and $123 million to Carbon County and Carbon County municipalities. Much of that would come from sales and use taxes and would stay in the county and towns.

Despite the uncertainty that loomed when the JRC proposed the tax, PCW began construction of the windfarm on Sept 9. A contractor from Casper began building out infrastructure such as roads for the project site, Miller said.

“We honored our commitments to our contractors,” Miller said. “Quite a bit of that infrastructure development is going on now.”

Miller said construction would continue through the fall until the company is forced to stop working, which will probably be as soon as the ground freezes. During the winter months, the company will continue working, but the work will be fabrication work that is not done on-site, Miller said.

“We’re always trying to secure more certainty for how we can handle our projects, and this (not levying wind energy taxes) removed the uncertainty that they created when they first started considering this,” Miller said.

 

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