Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, has resurrected his bill placing a two-year wind development project moratorium in Idaho. It failed to get out of committee in 2011. Projects already approved would not be impacted by his legislation.
While Simpson’s measure failed to make it out of committee last year, the vote was close at 11-8. That proposal was introduced in the House State Affairs Committee. This year Simpson routed it through the House Local Government Committee, where it voted without dissent or comment to introduce the bill.
Simpson’s new proposed moratorium is similar, but there are some significant differences. Instead of empowering the interim energy committee to look into the complaints and problems associated with wind energy and then make recommendations to the Legislature and update the state energy plan to reflect those, this version empowers the speaker of the House and the Senate pro tem to establish an eight-member task force—comprised of four House members and four Senate members—to meet and listen to stakeholder testimony, look at some of the issues and study wind-energy development in the state.
The task force would release a report by Jan. 10, 2014, to the Legislature and the governor.
In a call with IdahoReporter.com, Simpson said he believes the task force would recommend some changes regarding the industry and its influence in Idaho. “Once the task force spends the proper amount of time to investigate this industry, I think they’re probably going to recommend legislative changes with respect to taxation, with respect to energy policy, with respect to homeowner property rights and that kind of thing.”
During last year’s testimony, many homeowners testified that having the wind turbines built so close to their homes was impacting their property values and destroying the aesthetic value of their property as well.
Simpson believes there will be similar testimony this year. “I expect we will hear from homeowners again this time around, but at the same time we’re going to hear from wind-energy developers about the bill, and it’s possible we may hear from one of the utilities in the state as well.”
Another major theme during the debate over last year’s moratorium was the amount of incentives the wind energy developers receive for projects. Simpson says that the state can’t really do much about the federal incentives, but that something can be done regarding the state incentives. “There still is a state incentive, and that is the developers of wind farms don’t have to pay property taxes for those wind farms. They instead pay a production tax. And, that’s something that I expect the legislative task force would look at.”
The representative also said to expect some “staggering” numbers with regard to the subsidies the wind developers receive. “This isn’t just big money, this is huge money. The committee members will be amazed at the federal subsidies in particular that these companies are receiving on behalf of taxpayers. I mean, these are taxpayers who are paying for these generous subsidies and the end result is their utility rates are going up. It’s a terrible deal.”
Simpson expects the bill to be in committee for debate within a week or so.
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