In state after state, we’ve seen that having support from key leaders, such as governors, is critical to the development of a thriving wind energy industry, from manufacturing to distribution to wind farm installations that will create jobs and generate tax revenues. So it’s natural that Wyoming wind developers – who want to take advantage of the state’s first-class wind resources and help bring similar economic benefits to Wyoming – are a little disappointed by recent comments from Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D). Last week, at a Chamber of Commerce appearance, he said, referring to energy developers in Wyoming, “We’re going to have an even playing field…Nobody gets a free ride,” he said, “…because fair is fair.”
Sounds good. Yet, a few days later, in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar about oil and gas rules on federal land, Freudenthal singled out wind in an afterthought that was hardly fair: “I would…suggest that the Department’s next effort at reform be aimed at wind leasing and development. As it stands, the policy incentivizes the wrong things and has the potential to be more environmentally detrimental than oil and gas leasing and development. As with the oil and gas reforms, I would offer my help to the Department to help revamp its wind program to better reflect modern realities.”
What modern realities? Wind more environmentally detrimental than oil and gas leasing? Hardly. As for the level playing field, with wind paying big property taxes and big sales taxes on multimillion-dollar pieces of equipment, it is hard to imagine why the governor thinks wind energy is getting a “free ride.” Moreover, the Governor’s policies already are aimed at banning wind development near sage grouse areas, while still allowing some other energy development (or other detrimental activities) in those exact same areas.
Given the chance to peacefully coexist, wind energy can be a great complement to Wyoming’s existing resource portfolio of coal, oil and natural gas. Here’s hoping Wyoming soon will understand and welcome renewable energy businesses alongside its other energy industries. That would be an even playing field, indeed.