Report on the Virginia Legislature:

Actions relating to Wind Energy in 2005

Bills introduced by Sen. Hanger

State Senator Emmett Hanger has introduced two bills in the 2005 session of the Virginia Legislature that relate to wind energy. The first, Senate Bill #1011, would limit local taxation of wind projects to $3000/year/MW of installed capacity. This is a revised link that includes two small amendments. The bill as amended passed the Senate unanimously. This amount would include the turbines themselves as well as ancillary improvements associated with them, such as substations and transmission lines. The HNWD project as presently proposed at 39 MW would yield $117,000 per year to Highland County. It seems that this provision might override depreciation so that this amount would be paid to the county each year for the life of the project — but this should be confirmed.

I understand that this bill was proposed to Sen. Hanger by Mr. McBride, presumably as a means to reduce his tax liability in case the present SCC formulas are extended to apply to wind plants, which would result in an initial tax liability of $248K. [See discussion in the report on the supervisors meeting of 20 January.] Hanger introduced the bill without making any contact with Highland supervisors. E-mail from Highland County Supervisors to Senator Emmett Hanger. Hanger has since backed away from the $3000 figure, saying that it could be changed as necessary. The bill has been tabled in the House so it appears to be finished for this session of the Assembly.

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The other Hanger bill, Senate Joint Resolution #334, would set up a joint subcommittee to study wind energy development. This proposes a budget of only $4,800 to conduct the study, limits the subcommittee to meeting four times between now and 30 November 2005. The subcommitee chairman is to submit an executive summary of its findings and recommendations no later than the first day of the 2006 Regular Session of the General Assembly. [This is neither enough money nor enough meetings to conduct a study of this magnitude, in my opinion.] This bill was tabled [effectively killed] by the Senate Rules Committee on Friday 4 February. Apparently the Virginia Wind Energy Collaborative, a wind-advocacy group headquartered at James Madison University, tried to set itself up to do the study and when that failed they worked to scuttle the bill.

Jonathan Miles, reportedly the only VWEC principal attending the 4 Feb meeting, took issue with the above description of VWEC and their position on this bill. I did not attend the meeting and relied on others to report what happened. I understand that Alden Hathaway (Environmental Resources Trust) and Mitch King (Old Mill Power Co.), both VWEC partners, were there and spoke against the bill. Miles states that, “VWEC took NO POSITION pro OR con on this bill at any point. Further . . . VWEC offered only its assistance in crafting a comprehensive PLAN for a study (not to conduct the study) . . . .” He went on to say that the resolution “called for study of a topic that was already under consideration by another joint legislative body, the Commission on Electric Utility Restructuring (CEUR).” This is a much broader study so it seems unlikely that the environmental impacts of wind power will will receive primary attention, though any objective attention is useful. Miles complete letter is available if anyone wishes to read it. He also disputes the characterization of VWEC as a “wind-advocacy group.” That may not be their mission statement but their actions seem to lean in that direction. To date I have not located anything on their web site that is critical of wind energy.

House Bill 2579, which designates the Virginia Big-Eared Bat as the “official bat of the Commonwealth,” has passed the House and the Senate. It seems certain that it will be signed by Governor Warner.

John R. Sweet, Mustoe, VA