Wind Integral to Oklahoma's Path Toward Energy Independence, Says OK Wind Power's Mark YatesTue, 22 May 2018 11:15:29 CDT
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays sat down this week with Executive Director for OK Wind Power Mark Yates, to review the last few weeks of the 2018 Oklahoma Legislative Session that recently adjourned, a bit earlier than normal. According to Yates, those last few days leading up to Sine Die got a little frenetic as he worked to steer lawmakers away from passing legislation that would negatively impact Oklahoma’s partners in wind energy. Listen to that complete conversation between Hays and Yates, by clicking the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“The last two to three weeks were very volatile,” Yates agreed. “We saw a point where the budget had already been passed, already been signed and then we had Senate Bill 888, which was the elimination of refundability of already granted tax incentives for the wind industry.”
Yates argues that the state had already committed to those incentives and were about to pull out on payments still owed to wind projects that had made considerable capital investments in Oklahoma, on the basis that they would receive some tax relief. Yates says many of those projects had already implemented budgets with those incentive breaks built in and reneging on them could have potentially pulled many projects under into financial instability. He emphasized that a decision like this would have caused irreparable damage to the business reputation of Oklahoma, which he insists raised the level of this conversation - suggesting that it ultimately impacted citizens and businesses statewide.
“To go back and retroactively do away with the refundability of those tax credits would have had a detrimental impact on the wind industry and really Oklahoma’s business reputation,” Yates said, acknowledging the State Senate’s intervention in killing the bill. “Kudos to the Senate - I think they got it right. They made the right decision for Oklahoma and its business reputation to honor its word to investors. It’s very important that the state can be trusted and its word honored.”
Yates is hopeful that through this process, lawmakers who had originally supported the effort to back-pedal on these refund incentives, may have been educated on the good Oklahoma’s wind industry brings to the state and the mutual benefit that is generated from the state’s backing of it.
Yates says it is not as if the wind industry doesn’t pay its fair share. Last year alone, the industry generated more than $74 million in ad valorem tax dollars, which has directly impacted 26 counties in Oklahoma and 62 school districts - 32 of which have now fallen off the state aid formula, which leaves more funding for qualifying schools that need it around the state. In fact, the incentive program that lawmakers discussed this year, has already ended by voluntary consent of the wind industry. And, there are even some older projects that were not included in this deal when it was made and have since never received any tax breaks.
“The other stakeholder group that really has seen a tremendous impact is Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers,” Yates pointed out. “$48 million a year now, in land owner lease payments have been accumulated from the wind industry and that number is going to continue to rise as we add more projects.”
Yates notes, too, that this growing investment will be sustained long-term as these projects have life-spans of 25 to 50 years when the proper upgrades are made.
“In Oklahoma,” he said, “with the abundance of natural gas and an infinite supply of wind, we’re perfectly positioned for energy independence in the future.”
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