Minn. Wind Project Sparks Subsidy Fight in Congress

Monday, 19 Dec 2011 12:44 PM

By Greg McDonald

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An upcoming court battle over a huge wind project in Minnesota is fueling a fight in Congress about ending the federal wind subsidy program created by the 2009 economic stimulus package, according to a report Monday in the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

The program, which has already doled out $7.6 billion in grants, is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31. But the Star Tribune reported that an alliance of alternative energy industry types is fighting back, including Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who wants to build a $180 million wind farm in southern Minnesota overlooking the Mississippi River.

The Pickens-backed AWA Goodhue Wind project, however, has run into opposition from local farmers and environmentalists who are concerned that the 50 giant turbines that would be constructed pose a threat to bald and golden eagles in the scenic Mississippi River Bluffs area.

Minnesota's public utilities commission has approved the project, but now Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline, who represents the district where it would be located, is opposed as well.

The Star Tribune, noting the veteran lawmaker’s close ties to House Speaker John Boehner, said Kline is pushing to end the grant program that could provide up to $50 billion in taxpayer money to Pickens and other investors in the Minnesota project.

“This is a wind energy project Goodhue County citizens don’t want, funded by taxpayer money the federal government doesn’t have,” Kline told the Star Tribune.

The newspaper report cited a recent study by the Congressional Research Service that found that the tax benefits investors can reap from investing in wind projects under the federal program “can exceed” their entire tax liabilities.

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