An ongoing rift between oil and gas companies and the state’s wind industry could get worse before it gets better amid accusations from a pro-petroleum lawmaker who found a tracking device on his truck.
“I pissed off some people who’ve got billions of dollars,” Rep. Mark McBride can be heard saying in body camera footage released today by the Moore Police Department. “I pissed off a huge corporation. You know anything about wind farms? They’re a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate. A lot of it is owned by overseas companies. None of it’s owned by people in Oklahoma. And I did a study on wind energy, and when I did that study and exposed their market cap (…) I had word from a source that they were trying to dig into my life. Anything they could find on me. That I was having an affair or anything.
“It’s really more complicated than I’m getting into.”
McBride has been a critic of the wind industry, holding a press conference during the 2017 legislative session that questioned their since-repealed tax exemptions. Jeff Clark, president of the Wind Coalition, attended the press conference and offered his own remarks afterward. Clark has sparred with McBride on Twitter frequently in recent months.
“This is the silly season for politics,” Clark said today when asked if the wind industry was involved in placing a device on McBride’s truck. “Clearly, there are major discussions taking place at the Capitol and there are elections ahead. We are focused on elections and policy, and this organization and our members wouldn’t be involved in anything illegal.”
OSBI investigating tracking device on Rep. Mark McBride’s truck by William W. Savage III
Asked if he ordered for McBride to be followed, Clark said, “I didn’t do it.” Asked if Mark Yates, the Oklahoma director for the Wind Coalition, was involved, Clark said, “No.” Yates has also denied involvement to NonDoc.
“We’ve got a major tax discussion taking place, and this is a deliberate distraction from that,” Clark said.
Police report leads to McBride statements
Moore Police Department has released a police report filed Dec. 4, 2017, after McBride (R-Moore) found a tracking device attached to his pickup truck. The document’s release — first reported by Nolan Clay of The Oklahoman — notes McBride’s suspicion that “a wind farm corporation might be connected to placing the GPS on his vehicle.”
Asked why he told Moore police officer Francisco Franco that he suspected the wind industry’s involvement, McBride declined to elaborate Thursday.
“I can’t comment because OSBI has an ongoing investigation,” McBride said.
NonDoc first reported the story Tuesday, the same day on which McBride was scheduled to appear at a fundraising reception for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association.
Wind Coalition on tax proposal: ‘Unfair and inequitable’
At the same time, leaders of the Step Up Oklahoma effort have invited the Wind Coalition to the table for discussing a massive tax and reform plan announced last week. The Wind Coalition has responded with a request “to host a meeting with representatives from our industry and representatives from ‘Step Up’ in the hope of finding some common ground.”
The Wind Coalition sent a letter Wednesday to Step Up Oklahoma members detailing its belief that a new “production tax” on wind energy being paid on top of ad valorem taxes “ignores the fact that the production tax to wind without a corresponding offset in the local ad valorem tax would be unfair and inequitable.”
The Wind Coalition’s full letter can be viewed here:
That letter was sent one day after the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association and the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association both announced their support for the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which would raise the gross production tax incentive rate from 2 percent to 4 percent while including potential wind taxes, other taxes and political reforms.
“The OIPA and the oil and natural gas industry as a whole have always been willing to discuss our tax rate and our members have proven they are willing to increase their tax burden if it benefits Oklahoma,” OIPA president Tim Wigley said in a press release. “But one industry should not be asked to carry the whole load. By spreading revenue measures throughout the economy and pairing them with reforms to ensure new tax dollars are spent wisely, the grand bargain provides a long-term solution to state budget woes.”
OIPA and OKOGA, however, opposed a similar tax package that narrowly fell short in the Oklahoma House during special session in November. That package did not include new taxes on the wind industry, which has seen its previous tax credits eliminated in the past two years.
Both industries have told lawmakers that they have relinquished their tax breaks, although existing wind projects are still claiming credits and the Step Up Oklahoma plan’s GPT increase is 3 percent below a proposed ballot initiative that appears to have broad public support for raising GPT to 7 percent across the board.