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Opponents of planned solar energy project cheer Missouri Supreme Court decision

St. Louis Today|Kurt Erickson|August 31, 2022
MissouriTaxes & SubsidiesPhotovoltaic Solar

Opponents of a proposed solar energy project in mid-Missouri are cheering a new court ruling that halted a tax break for companies building the facilities. Callaway County Commissioner Roger Fischer, who represents an area near New Bloomfield being eyed for a 100 megawatt project, said he was “elated” by the high court’s ruling earlier this month. Fischer said requiring the solar project developers to pay property taxes would bring in more money to the county than through a negotiated payment from the company in lieu of taxes.


JEFFERSON CITY — Opponents of a proposed solar energy project in mid-Missouri are cheering a new court ruling that halted a tax break for companies building the facilities.

Callaway County Commissioner Roger Fischer, who represents an area near New Bloomfield being eyed for a 100 megawatt project, said he was “elated” by the high court’s ruling earlier this month.

Fischer said requiring the solar project developers to pay property taxes would bring in more money to the county than through a negotiated payment from the company in lieu of taxes.

“It’s a really big deal,” Fischer said.

At issue in the county is a plan by Florida-based NextEra Energy to build a solar energy production facility on farmland in the New Bloomfield area.

The site of the proposed solar complex is on various sites of crop and pasture land between New Bloomfield and the tiny community of Guthrie about 25 miles west of Missouri’s lone nuclear power plant.

But, residents in the area have blanketed the ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

     

JEFFERSON CITY — Opponents of a proposed solar energy project in mid-Missouri are cheering a new court ruling that halted a tax break for companies building the facilities.

Callaway County Commissioner Roger Fischer, who represents an area near New Bloomfield being eyed for a 100 megawatt project, said he was “elated” by the high court’s ruling earlier this month.

Fischer said requiring the solar project developers to pay property taxes would bring in more money to the county than through a negotiated payment from the company in lieu of taxes.

“It’s a really big deal,” Fischer said.

At issue in the county is a plan by Florida-based NextEra Energy to build a solar energy production facility on farmland in the New Bloomfield area.

The site of the proposed solar complex is on various sites of crop and pasture land between New Bloomfield and the tiny community of Guthrie about 25 miles west of Missouri’s lone nuclear power plant.

But, residents in the area have blanketed the town with signs opposing the project and the city council voted unanimously earlier this year to declare solar farms a “nuisance.”

Fischer is among those opposing the project.

“I am not OK with covering productive farmland with solar panels,” Fischer said.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruling, issued earlier this month, struck down a 2013 state law granting a property tax exemption for certain solar energy systems. The court said the tax break wasn’t allowed under the state constitution.

The case involved a solar farm supplying energy for Springfield. The ruling means the company could owe Greene County more than $400,000 in back taxes.

Prior to the court ruling, Callaway County had been negotiating with NextEra over a payment in lieu of property taxes on the land underneath the solar panels.

Fischer said there have been no discussions with the company about a payment since July. He said the court’s decision to end the tax credit could bring in 10 times more in tax revenue than any payment being discussed.

In a statement, a NextEra spokeswoman said the company plans to keep the community up to date on the project in light of the court ruling.

“We are currently reviewing the Missouri Supreme Court decision and how it will impact the Guthrie Solar project,” the statement said.

James Owen, executive director of Renew Missouri, which works to enact clean energy policies, said the Supreme Court decision could be positive for companies like NextEra because it would eliminate the need for them to negotiate payments with individual counties.

“The solar companies would like some consistency,” Owen said.

Lawmakers are already on track to begin working toward a solution. Senate Bill 745, which went into effect Sunday, establishes a task force to study the taxation of solar energy systems.

The panel is required to deliver a report to the General Assembly by Dec. 31, potentially allowing the Legislature to take up a constitutional fix to the tax issue when they reconvene in January.

The task force will be made up of members of the House and Senate, two county assessors, two members of the state tax commission, two representatives from statewide agriculture organizations, two representatives with experience in solar energy development and one member of an organization that advocates for solar energy development.

Owen is hopeful of a resolution.

“I think this will get fixed,” Owen said.

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Solar Energy Solar Panels Callaway County Missouri Supreme Court Missouri Legislature State-government Ruling Roger Fischer Politics Economics Commerce Institutes Parliament
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Kurt Erickson
Kurt Erickson
Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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