Wind Leader Accuses Legislators of Creating Punitive Punishment Against Industry

A bill targeting Oklahoma’s wind industry is set to be brought up in the Oklahoma House on Tuesday, prompting one wind industry spokesman to issue a call to arms by rural Oklahomans saying they will be the ones harmed if the measure becomes law.

“We are at the breaking point now with the wind industry,” stated Mark Yates, Oklahoma Wind Coalition Director as he voiced fears about the impact of SB 888 if it becomes law.

The bill, as authored by Sen. Josh Brecheen and Sen. Jeff Coody would end what is called the refundability for wind industry tax credits.

“The proposed committee substitute for SB888 relates to a tax credit for electricity generated by a zero-emission facility. The measure ends the ability for credits earned to be refundable at 85
percent of the value on or after January 1, 2019,” stated the measure.

Yates contends the measure would harm not just the wind industry but the dozens of school districts in western Oklahoma that received tax revenue from existing wind farms in more than two dozen counties. Up to $47 million a year is also made in payments to landowners.

“If these projects go under, there are no more lease payments,” warned Yates. “We got over $20 billion of investments in the state of Oklahoma. Now we have the legislature looking to retroactively pull back on what’s already been granted to the companies.”

He explained 62 school districts will be directly impacted.

“What we’re talking about is the state of Oklahoma that went out and recruited the capital investment to come to the state—now we’re talking about going back on our word to companies that we recruited here,” he complained. “We need Oklahomans to reach out to their legislators and tell them we cannot afford to lose our business reputation and put these projects at risk.”

Yates said he’s talked to legislators but the talk has “fallen on deaf ears.”

“Our anti-wind legislators continue to push for punitive taxes on would that would really jeopardize existing projects,” he added.

Yates accused some of those anti-wind legislators of hiding behind their own private agendas and “attacking wind to say they’re for education funding. We see a lot of political games being played.”

It is the second tax issue this week in the legislature to directly affect rural Oklahomans.  The State Chamber of Oklahoma came out earlier and reaffirmed its opposition to SB 1086, a plan to eliminate the capital gains exemption.

“Eliminating the capital gains exemption is not a reliable way to fund core services of government and it will make Oklahoma less competitive economically for capital investment,” argued State Chamber President and CEO Fred Morgan. “We have also heard numerous concerns from our members about how this would impact family-owned farms, small businesses and regular Oklahomans.”