The Wind Coalition is speaking out on what it calls “misleading op-eds” from groups lobbying against wind power in Oklahoma.
Jeffrey Clark, president of The Wind Coalition, says in a response from the group, “Over the years, groups lobbying against wind energy in Oklahoma have acted as though their political influence gives them license to attack without being held to common standards of accuracy and consistency. In my opinion, recent attacks on wind energy by the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA) missed the mark again.”
Specifically, Clark refers to an op-ed posted last month in The Journal Record in which Tim Wigley, executive vice president of governmental affairs for OIPA, says Oklahoma, “an energy state,” is the U.S.’ “No. 3 producer of natural gas” and the “No. 5 producer of crude oil.”
“Oklahoma is also ranked fourth in the nation for installed wind capacity,” Wigley writes, “but the difference between how our government treats the energy sources is clear.”
Calling wind power an “undependable and unpredictable energy source that is uneconomic without government subsidies,” he says “every oil and natural gas producer pays gross production taxes,” but for wind energy, there exists a “suite of overgenerous tax subsidies.” In addition, Wigley claims Oklahoma has to pay “more than $200 million per year to wind company owners.”
“By supporting wind energy … state lawmakers reduce demand for natural gas used in electricity generation and the tax dollars associated with it,” he adds.
In response, claiming that the state’s natural gas and wind power industries “work well together,” The Wind Coalition’s Clark says utilities “need generation diversity”: e.g., some Oklahoma companies that invest in wind are also investing in natural gas.
“The future of American energy will likely be driven by natural gas and renewable energy, and Oklahoma can be a national leader if it chooses to be,” he says, adding that OIPA should “back up [its wind] statements with data.”
However, Clark continues, “Unfortunately, [OIPA’s] focus on attacking wind keeps the state addicted to imported coal and, ironically, costs them new opportunities to expand natural gas markets.”
Regarding the tax incentives, Clark says, “OIPA talks about the production tax they pay but never about the property tax burden the wind industry bears. OIPA doesn’t pay the same.”
“’In lieu of’ this property tax, most of their taxes are paid at the state level while wind projects pay taxes locally, including to schools,” he writes. “More than $1 billion in new funding for public education will be enjoyed by Oklahoma schools thanks to wind investments, and multiple analyses have shown these benefits much more than offset the cost of state incentives.”
Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating also recently wrote an op-ed in Tulsa World in which he claimed he made a mistake when he signed a 2001 law that established a zero-emissions tax credit for wind in the state. Likewise, Clark calls this piece “deeply flawed.”
Endorsing the article on its website, OIPA writes that the article “says it all about the wind industry’s tax breaks.” Keating explains that the law he signed aimed to “jump-start” Oklahoma’s wind industry, which was in its “infancy” back in 2001.
However, the former governor now claims that “what was promised to cost the state less than $2 million annually when [he] was in office has soared to $113 million for the 2014 tax year and is expected to cost billions in the future.”
Considering the zero-emission tax credits weren’t “limited or capped,” he wrote, the tax incentives have “warped into a scam costing taxpayers millions to the detriment of other publicly funded services,” including education. In addition, he said the state’s wind industry “hardly lives up to the promised employment growth.”
“The costs will continue to rise, opportunity for education will be lost and taxpayers will be on the hook for billions if we don’t act now,” wrote Keating, adding that he is seeking to end the subsidy before July 1.