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New Mexico Senate seeks income tax credit for rooftop solar
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Senate has approved a tax credit that would offset costs of solar energy systems for households, small businesses and farms.
The Senate voted 37-3 on Monday for a bill that offsets income taxes to reward investments in small-scale rooftop solar investments.
The proposal now moves the House. Outgoing GOP Gov. Susana Martinez has indicated she is unlikely to support stand-alone tax measures.
Bill sponsor and Democratic state Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque says the bill reinstates tax credits that expired in 2016 and cap annual credits at $5 million. The new credit would gradually decline from 10 percent of costs to 6 percent over a 15-year period.
Republican Sen. Sander Rue of Albuquerque voted in favor but indicated the bill is unlikely to become law this year.
The Associated Press
Report: Energy jobs increase as construction jobs drop
CASPER, Wyo. — A state report shows unemployment numbers are continuing to drop as Wyoming sees a slight rise in energy sector jobs.
The Casper Star-Tribune reports unemployment fell from 4.8 percent two years ago to 4.2 percent last month.
The report made public Friday by the Department of Workforce Services, Research and Planning shows average monthly employment dropped by 1.2 percent from 2016 to 2017. Payroll numbers increased by nearly 2 percent during the same time.
Department economist David Bullard says the numbers indicate the energy sector is recovering.
Jobs in mining, oil and gas increased by more than 900 positions last spring, but construction jobs dropped by more than 1,700 between years.
Bullard says the numbers suggest the construction sector may still be adjusting since the downturn.
Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune
$2.5B plant to convert coal to diesel proposed in Indiana
DALE, Ind.— An energy company is seeking to build a $2.5 billion plant in southern Indiana that would convert the region's plentiful coal reserves into diesel fuel and other products.
Riverview Energy officials say the plant proposed for the Spencer County town of Dale would employ about 225 workers and create about 2,000 temporary construction jobs in the community, which is about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northeast of Evansville.
Company officials don't have a timeline on when the plant would be built.
"Dale was a prime location due to its proximity to the exact type of coal needed, and the logistical routes to move the end product northeast or to the Gulf," Riverview Energy President Greg Merle said. "Indiana, as well, is an excellent location because it is a pro-business, pro-jobs and pro-development state."
The company filed a construction permit request with Indiana in late January. But speculation about a project coming to Dale has been circulating since April, after the town council annexed more than 500 acres of land on the community's north side.
The plant would convert coal into diesel fuel and other products like Naphtha, which is used to produce products like plastics and gasoline. The plant would plan to use 1.6 million tons of coal and produce 4.8 million barrels of clean diesel and 2.5 million barrels of Naphtha each year.
The Associated Press
Oklahoma pulling up red carpet offered to wind industry
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — As Oklahoma sought to diversify its oil-and-gas powered economy in the early 2000s, policymakers rolled out the red carpet for the burgeoning wind industry, offering generous state tax incentives and access to windy, inexpensive tracts of land.
The industry exploded from virtually nothing in 2002 to 7,495 megawatts of capacity last year, ranking it No. 2 nationally in installed wind capacity behind neighboring Texas to the south. More than 3,700 giant turbines now dot vast swathes of central and western Oklahoma's rural landscape.
But as the state's finances plunged into recession amid a downturn in the oil patch in recent years, lawmakers ended all the state incentives and now are considering a new production tax on wind and even capping previously guaranteed incentives. Anti-wind groups aired commercials featuring former Republican Gov. Frank Keating admitting the incentives were a mistake, and former Dallas Cowboys and University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer decrying them as a "bad deal."
Now a battle is shaping up at Oklahoma's Capitol that includes fierce opposition to wind from some oil-and-gas leaders and critics, including one Republican lawmaker who accused someone connected to the industry of tracking his car and angrily shut down a wind industry news conference at the Statehouse last week.
"We've been struggling with our state budget for four or five years now. It's been tough," said state Rep. Mark McBride, who claims that a tracking device he found on his truck in December is connected to his opposition to the wind industry. "Where's wind been? They've been fighting us every step of the way on trying to help out the state."
Mark Yates, who heads the Oklahoma Wind Coalition, has denied that wind industry representatives are spying on McBride.
There's no question Oklahoma's tax incentives have become more costly at a time state coffers have dwindled. A five-year property tax exemption on wind farms skyrocketed from about $1 million in 2004 to more than $60 million in 2017. An even more generous cash subsidy for wind production ballooned to nearly $74 million in 2016, according to preliminary estimates from the Tax Commission.
But all of those incentives have ended in Oklahoma, even as neighboring Texas and Kansas continue to offer property tax exemptions to lure wind industry projects to their states.
"It frustrates me that expansion of these wind farms has slowed down," said rancher Chuck Coffey, who receives lease payments from 35 turbines that dot his Double C Cattle Company ranch in Murray County, about 90 miles south of Oklahoma City. "We're essentially going to drive the wind companies out of Oklahoma."
Supporters of the wind industry in Oklahoma say much of the opposition is being fueled by the powerful oil and gas lobby, which has long been one of the most influential at the state Capitol. The industry managed to secure a deep tax cut for oil and gas production just before prices collapsed, but lawmakers haven't yet had the political will to reverse it.
The Associated Press