Wyoming to Tax Wind Energy Production

Wyoming will have more authority over the siting of wind farms and the state will begin taxing wind energy production under bills that Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed into law Friday, the Billings Gazette reported. The $1-per-megawatt-hour tax on wind energy generated in the state goes into effect in 2012. The wind industry fought the tax bill unsuccessfully this session. Industry lobbyists had urged lawmakers to study the issue more and warned that higher taxes would discourage development.

The governor also signed a bill to extend the state’s permitting authority over wind farms and their related collector transmission lines. The third bill he signed sets a moratorium on the use of eminent domain powers to take private land for collector lines until June 30, 2011.

A fourth bill was still pending Friday that would set minimum county standards and restrictions for wind developments. In his farewell address to the House and Senate, Freudenthal said passing the wind bills sends the message that while Wyoming welcomes the wind industry, it will only do so on terms that are good for its quality of life and economic development—and only if the industry pays its own way.

“I believe that (a tax) should be applied, so all the economic activities in this state are on an equal footing,” Freudenthal said.

Cheryl Riley, executive director of the Wyoming Power Producers Coalition, said her group looks forward to working with the governor’s office and the Legislature over the interim to hash out issues related to wind development. Riley told the Gazette her organization supported the bills on the state’s permitting authority and industrial siting standards because they would create regulatory certainty. Riley said her group opposed the tax bill but regards what the Legislature passed as essentially a “placeholder” for the state while it works out details of how it intends to tax the industry in the future.