The House Ways and Means Committee took conflicting testimony April 20 on HB 464 which would exempt qualifying wind and solar energy facilities from property taxation for up to 20 years and require payments in lieu of taxes on the basis of each megawatt if production capacity of such facilities.
House committee members heard from various representatives of wind developers and Ohio-based businesses. The meeting ended with a lone opponent to the legislation calling the bill, “unwarranted.”
Tom Stacy, an engineer, said he has studied wind energy versus other types of energy sources full-time for the past two years. During his testimony he challenged the information given to committee members about this issue, specifically calling out the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
“While a renewable energy mandate is in place in Ohio, it was constructed without proper consideration of net environmental impact, net job impact, land use or a perspective on the economics involved in the renewable business,” Stacy said.
He asserted that it has been a long standing tactic of the wind energy industry to point out that “neighboring states are more generous.” He asked rhetorically whether the members have the will to vote against an unneeded tax giveaway to an industry who threatens to leave the state unless their requirements are met.
He said because the wind energy cannot be stored, it should actually be devalued. Stacy added that he has challenged the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) to evaluate the implications of wind on net energy emissions. He has not received a formal response.
“Energy storage is not scalable or affordable, and timely production is vital for electricity – which is an infinitely perishable commodity,” Stacy said.
He challenged the members to consider energy a commodity with the leverage of a value added tax. “Electricity is used in every step of manufacturing of everything, and its price accumulates in end products – often accounting for half or more of the total cost content – of everything. Manufacturing competitiveness is important to Ohio and our nation, and expensive, low value energy will hurt us. If we must have it, any tax revenue from its deployment is justified,” Stacy said.
On the other side of the issue was Terrence O’Donnell, representing Horizon Wind Energy, which plans to develop a large wind farm in Paulding County.
O’Donnell said that the OAQDA bonding program for wind projects does cause some challenges with regard to personal property tax and real property tax, however they do agree with the steady 2 percent escalator.
Another issue he pointed out was the timeline set out in the bill to have an Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) certification completed. He urged members to modify the deadline for certification by the end of 2010 to “be filed by the end of the year.”
Rep. Huffman asked about prevailing wage requirements for Horizon project workers. O’Donnell said the company pays wages at or above prevailing wage and doesn’t oppose it. He said the company would also support using as much of its supply chain from within Ohio as possible.
Jim Bowser, superintendent of Upper Scioto Wind/Energy Academy and assistant superintendent of Upper Scioto Valley Schools in Hardin County, has been a proponent of this issue and has testified in both the Senate and the House on this issue.
Bowser said he is looking at these wind projects as not only an energy cost saver, but an educational and career tool for area students.
Rep. Boose asked if his school would be looking into tax deductions for energy from solar or waste. Bowser said they would apply for tax incentives for both solar and waste energy.
Also testifying in support of HB464 were Greg Noetlich, COO for Elyria Foundry; Larry Viterna, president and CEO of Nautica Windpower LLC; and Jason Clark, representing the Ohio Vicinity Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwright Local 1066.
The Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Ohio Environmental Council, and director of Invenergy, LLC, all submitted written testimony.