Why Did Oklahoma Eliminate Wind Energy Tax Credits?
TULSA, Oklahoma - Oklahoma's wind industry will no longer enjoy tax breaks after July 1 of this year.
That's the latest decision from Governor Mary Fallin, who signed House Bill 2298 into law Monday. Lawmakers estimated the decision would save taxpayers about $500 million over the next decade.
Oklahoma is one of the nation's top wind energy producers. It's the third-highest producing state in the nation, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
So why choose to get rid of tax credits now?
Industry insiders say the timing of the decision does make sense.
Professor Tommy Henderson teaches students about renewable energy right from Tulsa Community College's own little miniature wind farm. Henderson said students have had a growing interest in wind energy.
"It's an opportunity for students who need a technical job," Henderson explained. "They can find one doing energy."
But the wind sector is not growing as quickly anymore.
"We have quite a few wind turbines up," Henderson explained, "and the projections to have more wind turbines is starting to fall off."
As the industry tapers off, some say the tax credits aren't as necessary.
"You could make a strong argument that taxpayers don't need to be heavily incentivizing well-established industries in the midst of a severe budget crisis," said Craig Immel, vice president of Tulsa-based Francis Renewable Energy. The company specializes in solar and geothermal energy.
While Francis Renewable Energy does a little bit of work in wind, the company believes eliminating wind tax credits will level the playing field, allowing Oklahoma's solar industry to flourish.
"It's virtually untapped in Oklahoma," Immel said. "From our perspective, it just seems like such a waste."
Speaker of the House Charles McCall of Atoka and Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz of Altus authored the bill.