The wind energy industry is speaking out against the bill that would take back refunds, saying it could lead to companies suing the state.
The latest report shows Oklahoma ranks second in the nation for installed wind capacity, but the industry says this bill puts that in jeopardy, along with current projects.
Mark Yates from Oklahoma Wind Coalition says, “We recruited companies to come to the state of Oklahoma and invest billions of dollars.”
The latest study shows Oklahoma’s 3,700 wind turbines crank out about 25 percent of all in-state electricity production. The 45 projects support roughly 9,000 jobs.
Now, they’re going back on their word and, really, it’s not a wind issue, it’s a business issue,” said Yates. “You know, it’s a bait-and-switch.”
But the senators backing the bill say it’s time to end corporate welfare payments.
Senator Josh Brecheen says, “If we don’t do something truly meaningful this session, not next session, another $70 million is literally going to be gone with the wind.”
Brecheen says the money adds up to $500 million to $750 million over the next 10 years and that most of it goes to foreign interests.
“Checks in the mail to Italy, checks in the mail to Spain,” stated Brecheen.
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I think I’ve ever heard is for legislators to be attacking outside investment into our state,” declared Yates. “These companies, the majority of them, are American companies.”
Yates claims lawmakers don’t understand the money companies have been promised is already budgeted into current projects, so it could stop these turbines from propelling.
Yates says “we have reached the point now, to do anything like this to the wind industry, we will be in default on loans and potentially open up avenues for companies to sue the state of Oklahoma.”
Before the walkout, the Governor signed a bill that raised the oil and gas gross production tax from 2 to 5 percent.
Oklahoma Wind Coalition claims the wind industry’s tax burden is much higher – the equivalent of a 10 percent GPT.
The bill passed in a House Committee and could be up for a vote as early as Thursday.