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Jack County Commissioners should vote ‘no’ on wind farm tax abatement

Opinion

Letter to the Editor

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On July 12, the Jack County Commissioners will decide how to react to a foreign company coming to town looking for a handout. French company EDF Group is looking to build their Lasso Wind project within the northern portion of Jack County and is asking the county to provide a tax abatement.

One local group, the North Texas Heritage Association, isn’t willing to let this wind farm move in without a fight. The group comprises around 700 people from Jack and other neighboring counties who account for over 450,000 acres of land throughout the area.

“If they’re coming anyway. Why give [the wind farm companies] more? They can pay taxes just like we do,” an opposed resident said during a recent commissioner’s court meeting.

These tax abatements are a form of corporate welfare and are sold to residents as spurring economic growth and job creation. The companies will allude that they’ll take their business elsewhere if they don’t receive an abatement. However, the Texas Observer reviewed more than 360 abatement agreements and found that many companies had settled on where to build before even applying for the abatement.

These incentives are ineffective and can even be economically harmful. Taxpayers have to foot the bill to cover the tax revenue loss from abatements across the state. Not to mention these government subsidies distort our energy markets with artificially low or negative prices that drive out reliable energy and threaten our power grid. In 2019 alone, renewable energy subsidies in Texas totaled over $2.3 billion.

Residents say that while the economic impacts of the turbines are important to them, they also worry about their effect on the endangered whooping crane, which migrates through the area.

“If we kill one pair of whooping cranes this season, we seriously jeopardize the genetic diversity of the spices,” a resident told a local news station.

A wildlife biologist assessed the area of the whooping crane’s migration path that would be affected by wind turbines in Jack County. The report estimates that roughly 500 of the over 800 whooping cranes believed to exist worldwide fly through the Lasso Wind project’s proposed area.

The Department of Energy admits that bird deaths due to collisions with turbines are not well documented but estimates that these bird deaths could reach 1.4 million deaths per year. The U.S. Geological Survey also estimates that tens to hundreds of thousands of bats die from wind turbines each year.

Residents should also be concerned about where the waste from the wind farm will go in 20 years once the turbines are decommissioned. Will it fill up municipal dump grounds or be left abandoned on the farmland? The Journal of Waste Management estimates that there will be at least 43 million tons of wind turbine waste by 2050.

Locals interested in opposing the wind farm in Jack County should reach out to the North Texas Heritage Association to get involved and contact Jack County Commissioners Terry Ward, Darren Francis, Henry Birdwell Jr., and Gary Oliver, as well as Jack County Judge Brian Umphress ahead of the July 12 vote to express your opinion and show up at 10 a.m. Monday, July 12, to encourage a NO vote for abatements.

George W. Clay IV is the founder of High Plains Energy Company and High Plains Health Providers based in Wichita Falls, an outdoor enthusiast, and part time farmer and rancher who owns over 900 acres in northern Jack County.

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