Big Wind’s Big Loss: As Vermont goes, so goes Oklahoma?
Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
OKLAHOMA CITY – Departing state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, wants state government to eliminate the Zero Emission Facility Tax Credit sooner (in 2017) rather than later. In recent testimony before the Incentive Evaluation Commission, Mazzei pointed out that in 2010, the credit reduced tax coffers $3.7 million – and that the slash in revenue reached $100 million in 2015.
“Big Wind” — as the fusion of industry campaign money and lobbying clout is sometimes deemed — took at least one major “hit” on election day.
In Vermont – which Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried by 29 percent – voters angry over aggressive wind farm siting policies and related issues elected Republican Phil Scott as governor.
Despite the Clinton tide in the Green Mountain State, Scott won the governor’s race with 52 percent of the vote.
Here in Oklahoma, Sen. Mazzei testified, “The whole goal of any tax incentive should be to generate economic benefits that are greater than the cost. When you look at the direct economic benefit from the wind power facilities in 2015, it was $78.4 million and produced only $17.1 million in tax revenue,” said Mazzei, R-Tulsa. “When you take into account the fact that Oklahoma is looking at a budget shortfall of at least $600 million for fiscal year 2017, we clearly cannot afford to wait until 2021.”
A release sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations narrated Mazzei’s central contentions this way:
“The tax credit program also lacks adequate protections such as an annual cap for the program which would limit the annual expense to the state and enable lawmakers to anticipate the exact cost for budgeting purposes.”
According to the release, a research group (PFM consulting) says cost of the wind power subsidy “significantly exceeds the benefits of the program, and recommends that the credit termination date should be accelerated.”
Further, “the report documents that in 2014, 154 corporate interests took advantage of the program.
This enormous corporate welfare is certainly not fair to the other 1.6 million tax filers in Oklahoma who sent their money to the state hoping for good schools, good roads, and good law enforcement. He also noted the analysis by PFM showed Oklahoma is the only state in the country accepting new wind power facilities. Mazzei called on the members of the Incentive Evaluation Commission to approve the analysis report by PFM on the Tax Credit for Zero Emission Facilities.”
Mazzei said, “I strongly encourage every member of the 2017 legislature to read this report and support legislation to end the wind power tax credit in 2017.”
As for the Vermont election, Michael Bielawski reported in a story for the Watchdog.org news organization, “Phil Scott won the Vermont governor’s race by a 52-43 percent margin, and turnout in towns with wind energy fights suggests turbines had something to do with it.
“Vermont’s election drew high turnout, with 68 percent of voters casting ballots for candidates and local issues. Of the issues that mattered most to Vermonters, wind energy siting was among the most divisive during the campaign.
“Governor-elect Scott called for a moratorium on industrial wind development, while Democrat challenger Sue Minter said industrial-scale wind farms would continue to play a central role in the state’s energy future.
Clerks in multiple towns told Vermont Watchdog that Scott’s position was a hit with voters.”
Annette Smith, director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, told Bielawski that incoming-Gov. Scott’s strong position in favor of towns’ rights will impact the state’s energy policy: “This really changed the landscape for Vermont and it’s all positive. Now we can work together and collaborate and not shut out good people with good ideas. The reign of the club is over.”
In a commentary for National Review Online concerning events in the home state of U.S. Sen. Bernie Bernie Sanders , analyst Robert Bryce observed, “Big Wind lost big [on November 8]. While it’s not clear what Donald Trump’s election means for federal energy policy, it’s abundantly obvious that the wind-energy sector’s agenda was crushed in Vermont. Indeed, thanks to the resounding — and somewhat improbable — election of a new Republican governor, Phil Scott, it is possible that Vermont could ban construction of new wind projects.”