House Speaker changes his mind about targeting renewable energy with a production tax


You never know what politics will bring. Take for example Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall’s HB2950 which he introduced in February and included a proposed renewable energy tax…a tax he threw in after renewable energy firms fought the Right of First Refusal bill supported by utilities.

The Right of First Refusal bill, HB4097 pitted some strong groups against the effort to give utilities the power to refuse competitive bidding for major transmission line projects. The behind-the-scenes efforts produced closed door meetings and promises of big campaign money and in general, a lot of political arm-twisting.

Finally, it appeared Speaker McCall had enough and came up with HB2950 which included an income tax elimination for Oklahomans. Buried deep in the measure was also a one dollar per megawatt-hour renewable energy production tax.

As OK Energy Today reported, it angered the renewable energy industry in the state. Mark Yates, a former vice president of Advanced Power Alliance and now with CornerStone Government Affairs called it an “extremely onerous and terrible idea,” in an interview with OK Energy Today.

He said “it sends a message to the U.S. that we don’t want to see the deployment of capital for renewable energy in Oklahoma,” Yates added that it was clear the House Speaker had not consulted with anyone in the industry, saying, “—pretty amazing. It’s extremely detrimental to the state’s growth.”

After the ROFR bill underwent changes and won House approval, McCall’s renewable energy tax bill came up for a vote a few weeks ago in the House where it was quietly amended as introduced by Rep. Kevin Wallace.

“The amendment removes the renewable production tax from the bill,” he told House members without explanation prior to the March 13 vote.

Just like that, the ROFR retaliation effort disappeared and House members voted 74-21 in favor of the flat tax plan, that received favorable support from groups such as Americans for Tax Reform. The group called it a “massive win for Oklahoma taxpayers” and described it as “one of the best income tax elimination bills a state legislature has put forward.”

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform issued a statement following the vote.

“It is an understatement to say eliminating the state income tax would be game changer for Oklahoma, it would lead to massive investment, growth, and new taxpayers moving into the state.”

Groups that had opposed the renewable production tax made no comment. Neither did the Speaker.

The bill was sent to the State Senate where it is referred last week to the Senate Rules Committee.