Acting on behalf of fossil fuel companies, the Wyoming legislature decided the state owns the wind. Yes, you heard that right, and no, it’s not a joke or “click-bait.” Here’s how it works:
According to reports, for the last several years, “Wyoming has been taxing the power generated by wind turbines at $1 per megawatt.” This is not any sort of regular tax, such as income or employment tax, but literally a new tax based completely on the assertion that the state of Wyoming (the only state in the union to make this claim) owns the very wind that naturally blows across that land.
In a statement of opposition from the chairman of the Renewable Energy Association of Landowners (REAL), Bob Whitton:
“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. 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.”
According to UW Law Professor, Dennis Stickley:
“The question is if wind rights should be severable from surface ownership. As a general principle, all rights in property are assignable and transferrable and alienable, and you can transfer title. Moreover, anecdotally there are situations already where landowners have severed wind rights.”
In Wyoming, these rights no longer apply—the state can claim ownership of the wind whether you choose to sever your rights or not, and the move is purely motivated by the oil industry’s influence. Bill Miller, chief executive of the Power Co. of Wyoming had this to say:
“Just about every legislator we’ve met with asks us, ‘You tell us how much we can tax you before we put you out of business.’ I just shake my head and say, ‘Zero.’”
There are apparently other bills underway now that could potentially raise the $1 per megawatt hour as high as $12 per megawatt hour, which could in turn tax wind farms out of existence. The excuse for this is supposedly due to the fact the wind industry has been receiving federal and state subsidies, butaccording to those within the wind industry, they wouldn’t even need the subsidies if they weren’t paying the extra taxes on wind in the first place.
While Wyoming is the only state to tax the wind, other states have had similar problems, such as the solar power industry in Nevada. In Matt Agorist of The Free Thought Project’s report:
As the Free Thought Project reported earlier this year, while Nevadans were celebrating the holidays under solar-powered lights, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to increase a monthly fee on solar customers by 40%while reducing the amount they get paid for excess power sold to the grid. Adding insult to injury, they made the rate changes retroactive, sabotaging consumer investments in solar energy.
The solar industry is now dying in Nevada thanks to government regulators who are in the pockets of the oil and gas industry, and it put an end to anyone hoping to live off the grid in the sunny state.
In Wyoming’s case though, here’s a random idea; if the state wants to claim ownership over the wind, which is made of air, then maybe citizens should band together and sue the state for the pollution caused by the oil industry there. Suing over man-made pollution seems more plausible than taxing citizens because air is able to naturally move quickly in currents.
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