Clean energy company drops out of The Wind Coalition because of accusations involving legislator

A clean energy company dropped out of The Wind Coalition this year after a legislator made accusations about a tracking device found on his pickup, The Oklahoman has learned.

The Chicago-based company, Invenergy, is building a massive wind farm in Oklahoma's Panhandle that will be the largest in America and the second largest in the world once operational in 2020.

Issues involving the $4.5 billion Wind Catcher project are now before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

"Invenergy terminated its membership in The Wind Coalition last month when allegations surfaced in the media," the company's communications director said Friday.

"Invenergy has no knowledge as to whether the allegations are true or false," communications director Patrick Whitty said. "This was a business decision to minimize unnecessary distraction during the Wind Catcher proceeding and as important decisions are being made about the future of wind energy in Oklahoma."

Invenergy had been a longtime member of The Wind Coalition, a trade association formed more than a dozen years ago to promote the development of wind energy as a power source.

A state representative who has been at odds with The Wind Coalition found a GPS tracker hidden underneath his pickup the evening of Dec. 4.

Rep. Mark McBride told both Moore police and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation he suspects the wind industry was having him followed. An OSBI special agent is investigating his accusations.

"I had word from a source that they were trying to dig into my life," McBride told a police officer. "Anything they could find on me, having an affair, or just anything."

McBride, R-Moore, has been one of the most outspoken critics of tax breaks given to the wind industry. "It is time for Big Wind to pay its taxes, just like the rest of us," he wrote in a newspaper opinion piece last year.

A bill capping wind tax credits at $35 million a year is now working its way through the Legislature.

The OSBI investigation so far has determined that a Texas political consultant hired the Oklahoma private investigators who put the tracker on McBride's pickup.

The OSBI special agent is now trying to determine who hired political consultant George Shipley, whose nickname is "Dr. Dirt."

The Wind Coalition is based in Austin, Texas. Years ago, the coalition and Shipley's company had offices in the same building. The Wind Coalition's president has denied any involvement in having the legislator followed.

"I have not hired, nor has The Wind Coalition hired, any entity, including Mr. Shipley, to conduct opposition research on candidates or officeholders," Jeff Clark said Feb. 28.

The Wind Coalition is not currently listing its members on its website, as it has in the past. But officials said membership is up, not down.

"Overall, membership in The Wind Coalition throughout our eight-state region has increased in the first quarter of 2018," the Oklahoma executive director, Mark Yates, said Friday.

"Membership investment and renewal is strong as wind industry-based companies, investors and manufacturers benefit from working together to expand the industry and encourage even more corporations to transition its operations to a renewable energy source," Yates said.

Coalition members will be at the Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday for OK WindPower Day. Joining them will be landowners, county officials and school superintendents.

Shipley has refused to talk to the media. He had been subpoenaed to appear before Oklahoma's multicounty grand jury March 6 but a Texas judge ruled he did not have to come.

McBride sued Shipley on March 7 in Oklahoma City federal court. He is seeking actual and punitive damages on invasion of privacy and five other grounds.


MAR 24 2018
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