Governor Dave Freudenthal announced his proposal for new legislation to tax wind power generation as well as strengthen Wyoming property owners' rights when it comes to building transmission lines and other power infrastructure.
The proposed legislation would be considered during next week's 20-day budget session of the Legislature. The idea is to give lawmakers both time to study a more extensive ruling for how property rights are considered in transmission-line access and consider a more dynamic tax to be in line with how other energy resources are taxed in Wyoming.
The governor says that the current laws governing how condemnation and property forfeiture are considered for public utilities such as water, sewer and power are outdated and were made when wind was cursed rather than being considered a natural resource. He believes the law needs updating to match current times.
The taxes are to raise revenue and look towards the future when wind may be replacing a large percentage of the coal and natural gas that is already taxed as the state's primary revenue source.
Most of Wyoming's energy resources are exported out of state, including wind power, and those exports are taxed by the state to generate revenue.
Wind power is a big part of Wyoming's future and, as has been said before, the potential for wind power generation here is immense. Potentially, it could become of the major resources which is exploited and then exported for the benefit of the citizens of other states.
The proposed tax is $3 per megawatt hour and revenues would be split 40:60 between local and state government. This equates to about a 5% excise tax, which is far below what other energy resources are taxed for their exports. Here in Laramie County, the wind energy tax would bring about $300,000 per year for the county. State-wide, it would generate about $5.9 million in total with Converse County recieving the largest chunk of that (about half).
The private property protection would be a moritorium on using condemnation to seize property for one year, allowing lawmakers to forge more permanent rules for how utilities might gain access to private lands for right of way to send power or other resources through. Current law favors the developer rather than the private property owner, which Freudenthal (rightly) said is unfair.
All in all, I think this is a good sign that Wyoming's state government is paying attention and looking towards the future. While our current energy resources are mainly natural gas and coal, in the future, that will likely change in favor of wind power.