Wyoming considers wind power tax
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A bill to impose a tax on wind energy generation in Wyoming advanced Monday despite warnings that it could slow development and increase power costs. The House Revenue Committee voted to reduce the proposed tax by two-thirds, from $3 to $1 per megawatt hour. It also amended the bill to delay imposition of the tax until 2012 and specified that the state won't collect taxes on power generated by turbines during their first three years of operation. The committee voted 6-3 to recommend approval of House Bill 101, which now heads to the House floor. County government representatives urged the committee to approve the tax, saying they face higher road maintenance costs because of wind projects. "We thought that some sort of tax was a good idea because people in the state are going to have to look at these things for the next 50 years, or whatever," said Rob Hendry, chairman of the Natrona County Commission. Matt Grant, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power, said his company pays property taxes in most Wyoming counties and serves 140,000 electric customers in the state. "We'd just like to study this issue a little more before moving forward," Grant said, adding that any tax would be passed along to the company's customers. Wyoming's mineral industry uses the bulk of the power in the state and would wind up paying the bulk of the tax, Grant said. Larry Wolfe, lobbyist for Duke Energy, said no one knows the consequences of imposing the tax. He said Duke has entered into some binding contracts to provide power and won't be able to pass along increased costs. Sarah Gorin o f the Equality State Policy Center urged the committee to impose the tax. She said Wyoming's action will affect what other states do with their tax policies. She said the situation will never be completely static, so further study won't lay all issues to rest. Gov. Dave Freudenthal called for the wind tax in his state of the state address last week. His office estimated that the original $3 per megawatt hour excise tax that the original legislation proposed would raise about $11.5 million annually at existing production rates.