By Dennis Sharkey, Mound City News Editor
An agreement between Atchison County, its three school districts and Ameren Electric was approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission last week.
As part of the agreement that was approved on Wednesday, March 6, Ameren Electric was granted the right to purchase a wind turbine farm in unincorporated Atchison County. The farm has not yet been constructed. Ameren will take over the farm after the construction is completed.
As reported last week beginning the year after Ameren takes over the farm, it will make an annual payment to Atchison County. The first payment will be $300,000 and will increase by two percent of the previous year’s total payment every year thereafter as long as the farm operates.
The three school districts involved, Tarkio R-I, Rock Port R-II, and Fairfax R-3, will all get a part of the payment.
Current Missouri law taxes wind farms differently based on ownership. If a farm is independently owned most of the taxes are assessed by the local county which can be a financial windfall. If the farm is owned by a public utility like Ameren, the taxes are assessed at the state level.
The agreement will become null and void if a new law is passed by the Missouri legislature that changes the policy. That possibility moved closer to reality late last week.
Missouri Rep. Allen Andrews, R-Grant City, has sponsored a bill, HB 220, that will change the policy. After gaining some steam last week by moving out of committee the bill was marked up on the House floor last Thursday, March 7, and passed out of the full House by a 151-1 bipartisan vote.
The one representative who did vote against the bill was Jeff Pogue, R-Salem.
Andrews told the Mound City News last week he is also helping carry a Senate version of his bill that arrived in the House last week.
On Monday Andrews said that he is confident at least one of the bills will reach Gov. Mike Parson’s desk this year.
“Even though it has a long way to go I feel confident we will see the Governor sign this into law,” Andrews said via e-mail.
Andrews said it was important to get urban lawmakers on board. Some farmers in Atchison County during a public hearing said they would have never allowed the wind turbines on their property if they had known the tax dollars were not staying local. Without farmers on board there’s no wind turbine farms at all.
“My urban colleagues understand the seriousness of this legislation as I made it clear during the floor debate that this statute change is not only a tax-revenue lifeline to our rural region, but it is imperative to the future of wind development throughout Missouri,” Andrews said. “I believe they understand that the infrastructure and land mass needed to build a wind farm is uniquely different than any other energy form.”