The University of Arkansas and the city of Fayetteville announced today their support for the Wind Catcher Energy Connection Project, an Oklahoma panhandle wind farm that will deliver power to Northwest Arkansas:

“The Wind Catcher Project helps the city of Fayetteville take a huge step towards our 100 percent clean energy goals and reducing carbon emissions,” said Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, adding, “Fayetteville is committed to working with leaders of other cities, states, universities and businesses to combat climate change by supporting a low-carbon economy and creating good jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy.” 

Wind Catcher, which will be the largest single-site wind farm in the U.S., providing electricity to about 800,000 homes, has come under attack by an anonymous group, “Protect Our Pocketbooks,” which has used expensive television and print advertising to claim Arkansas will receive no benefit from the project.

Power utility SWEPCO, which will own 70 percent of the project, questioned who’s behind “Protect Our Pocketbooks” in a press release in March, part of which follows:

“A group known only as Protect Our Pocketbooks – which does not reveal the names of its backers or the sources of its substantial funding – is presenting misleading information to the public, including manipulation of statements by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson,” said Brian Bond, SWEPCO Vice President of External Affairs.

Gov. Hutchinson wrote to the Arkansas Public Service Commission on Jan. 11 asking that the benefits of federal corporate tax cuts be passed on by utilities to Arkansas families and businesses. “In its latest television ad, Protect Our Pocketbooks misleadingly associates the governor’s comments about corporate federal tax cuts with the group’s campaign against Wind Catcher,” Bond said.

“The anonymous, tax-exempt opposition group claims that Arkansas gets none of the benefits of the project, which is incorrect and misleading. Arkansas will receive the benefits of generation with no fuel costs, cost savings immediately and over the life of the project, the full value of the federal Production Tax Credits available to the project, and the economic development benefits of wind turbine components being manufactured in Arkansas,” Bond said.

KUAF-FM, 91.3, reporter Jacqueline Froelich aired a great explainer in March as she interviewed Justin Allen, a Little Rock lawyer who represents “Protect Our Pocketbooks,” and Peter Main, a spokesman for SWEPCO, who talked about the estimated $4 billion cost-savings that the utility predicts customers will see over the 25-year life of the project.

Max wrote about Wind Catcher and its opposition after an op-ed opposing the wind project by Grant Tennille appeared in Talk Business. Tennille, the former director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, was writing as a consultant to Renewable Arkansas, an offshoot of Americans for Affordable Energy.

Americans for Affordable Energy, according to a 2004 book about opposition to hydropower in Canada, was created by Enron and Ford to support policies to support deregulation. Renewable Arkansas claims to be a solar power advocacy group. That’s been challenged by wind-power advocates in Louisiana, where Renewable Louisiana has sprung up. At the time, Tennille declined to provide information on the funding behind Renewable Arkansas.

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