GOVERNMENT: Taxing Renewable Energy “Out of Existence”
Wyoming — Shortly after they realized the potential for wind energy creation in Wyoming, renewable energy companies began constructing turbines on private property and then selling the clean power they generated to the residents. However, shortly after their ventures began, Wyoming government officials, acting on behalf of fossil fuel interests, moved in for the kill.
The state legislature asked the question, “Who owns the wind?”
Without much debate, the Wyoming legislature quickly determined that the state does.
Unlike any other resource derived from the use of private property, which the property owner maintains from surface ownership, the state of Wyoming claims wind is different.
So, lawmakers decided to tax it. For the last several years, Wyoming has been taxing the power generated by wind turbines at $1 per megawatt.
Do not mistake this tax as part of the regular taxes that already apply to businesses like income tax and employment taxes. No, this is an entirely new tax based solely on the assertion by Wyoming officials that they own the wind.
“Wind is different than anything else. It’s not like a mineral, which is something that sits there in the ground until you go after it,” says Bob Whitton, chairman of the Renewable Energy Association of Landowners (REAL). “It’s not like water that can be put in a lake or pond. The wind blows in and blows out and you can’t put it in a pond, pipeline, truck or train and send it somewhere.”
“The question is if wind rights should be severable from surface ownership,” says UW Law Professor Dennis Stickley, who has worked on the issue along with a group of graduate students that gave their findings at the recent Wind Energy Task Force meeting in Casper, as reported by WYLR.
“As a general principle, all rights in property are assignable and transferrable and alienable, and you can transfer title,” says Stickley. “Moreover, anecdotally there are situations already where landowners have severed wind rights.”
However, thanks to Wyoming officials, these rights no longer apply.
This move by the state is not in the interest of the people, nor it is even in the interest of raising funds for the government. In the four years that it’s been law, the state has only raised $15 million from taxing the wind.
This move is purely retaliatory and meant to stifle new businesses who threaten the dinosaur coal and fossil fuel industry’s grip on energy production.