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United States

Washington set to limit wind energy tax break

US: State lawmakers in Washington are considering bills that would limit sales-tax exemptions on wind energy equipment.

Washington governor Chris Gregoire
Washington governor Chris Gregoire

In a special session that begins today, Washington’s legislature will consider limiting current tax exemptions to wind equipment owned by or generating power for in-state utilities.

Washington state governor Chris Gregoire called the special session in an attempt to agree measures to address the state’s $2.8 billion budget gap.

But the state’s wind industry is vigorously opposing the proposals, claiming they are unconstitutional because they unfairly single out the wind industry.

"The idea is that they'd pass something that appears to violate the constitution and, therefore, wouldn’t be enforceable," said Kim Risenmay, an attorney with Stoel Rives. "By the time you have the lawsuits to determine that, it’s going to be another year and another budget session."

"We are trying to stop them," added Rachel Shimshak, director of Renewable Northwest Project, a regional advocacy group. "It’s bad policy: penny wise and pound foolish. They might save a few shekels in the state budget, but they will lose tens of millions of dollars in investment if those projects don’t materialise." 

Washington’s move follows last month’s decision by the Wyoming House of Representatives to give an initial approval to what could become the US's first wind energy tax.

Two-thirds of the 60-member chamber supported the tax, which will mean a $1 per MWh charge for developers.Revenue will be split 60:40 between the state and the counties where the wind farms are based.

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