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Manhattan Institute

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Big 'Green' and Mean: A Wind-Energy Giant Attacks Small-Town America

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Big 'Green' and Mean: A Wind-Energy Giant Attacks Small-Town America

National Review Online May 2, 2017
Energy & EnvironmentRegulationsClimate

The world’s biggest wind-energy company has filed lawsuits against five rural governments because they stand between it and millions in tax subsidies.

NextEra Energy, which bills itself on its website as “the world’s largest generator of renewable energy,” is suing a tiny municipality in one of Oklahoma’s poorest counties.

In mid February, NextEra, which operates 110 wind projects in 20 states, filed lawsuits in both state and federal court against the town of Hinton, population: 3,200. Why is the wind giant suing the Caddo County town? Simple: Hinton stands between NextEra and nearly $18 million per year in federal tax subsidies.

NextEra isn’t suing only Hinton. Since last October, the wind giant has filed lawsuits against five rural governments from Oklahoma to Michigan, all of which have imposed limits on wind-turbine development. The company has also filed a libel suit against Esther Wrightman, a Canadian activist who opposed a project NextEra wanted to build in Kerwood, Ontario. Wrightman’s offense? She called the company “NexTerror” and “NextError” on her website, ontario-wind-resistance.org. That libel suit, filed four years ago, is still pending.

To be certain, the oil and gas industry has filed lawsuits against local governments that have sought limits on hydraulic fracturing. The difference is that NextEra is using taxpayers’ money to fund its courthouse mugging of small-town America. Between 2008 and 2015, according to a recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, NextEra accumulated profits of $21.5 billion but didn’t pay a dime in federal income taxes. Over that time frame, only ten other American companies received more in tax subsidies than NextEra. Nor does it appear that NextEra will be paying federal taxes any time soon. In its 10-K filing for 2016 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company reported $3 billion in tax-credit carryforwards that it can use to directly offset tax liabilities in future years. Remember, tax credits are more valuable than a deduction from revenue or accelerated depreciation. As my accounting consultant (and brother) Wally Bryce, a CPA, reminds me: “You’d much rather get a tax credit because it applies dollar for dollar against what you owe the government.”

NextEra wants more tax credits. And it’s litigating to get more. But each lawsuit NextEra files against a yet-smaller rural town or yet-smaller website owner provides another example of the backlash against Big Wind....

Read the entire piece here at National Review Online

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Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.

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