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June 5, 2014

As wind industry grows, so do tax incentive payments

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

Mastin questioned the accuracy of that estimate but agreed the cost will increase.
“I would definitely agree based upon the projection I’ve seen for wind farms that we will be paying out more than now,” he said. “But how much more, I can’t really predict.”
Until 2011, Mastin said, wind producers only claimed an average of $3.2 million a year in rebates. But wind development has grown briskly in Oklahoma. 
The state has 26 operational wind farms, according to the Department of Commerce, and is expected to add another half-dozen in the next 18 months.
That pace has helped quicken the growth of the incentive program. Last year’s $11.9 million payment also included unclaimed 2011 credits, which were not paid at the time because of a moratorium on all tax incentive programs due to budget issues. 
But Mastin said the wind industry is expanding so quickly, the 2014 payments alone are expected to exceed that two-year total.
However, he cautioned that it is difficult to know just how much wind producers will collect until they file their tax returns, because nobody knows how much energy they’re going to generate.
The wind industry’s payout is getting heightened attention as some in the Legislature call for an inquiry into wind development. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, authored a failed bill to freeze construction of wind farms east of Interstate 35 until 2017 to allow for further study the industry.
Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, the bill’s House sponsor, said in a statement in May that while he supports the wind industry, “it is important as the industry expands that we explore that growth in a responsible way. A deliberative discussion is needed with all interested parties so we can ensure the best policy for the state is put in place.”

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