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Palm Beach Billionaire Koch Likes Tax Subsidies Too

One of Palm Beach billionaire Bill Koch's main objections to a proposed offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound -- which he has spent millions of dollars fighting -- is that it will require tax breaks to succeed. As the Juice reported earlier today, Koch has claimed that the annual $100 million in tax subsidies will be passed on to customers in the form of higher electric bills.

This is a delightful bit of math for a couple of reasons. First, because the coal industry -- which is Koch's line of work -- has benefited from billions of dollars in federal tax breaks.

Second, Koch's company, the Oxbow Group, gets plenty of other tax breaks. In

fact, in 2003, Koch told reporters that he moved his company to West Palm Beach to take advantage of Florida's corporate tax haven. Here's what the St.Petersburg Times discovered about Koch at the time:

Some executives who take advantage of Florida's tax system make no apologies for it.  "I've done a lot of sailing and, well, the rules aren't fair," said Bill Koch, the oil man. "Well, life ain't fair. You play according to the rules that are given to you."

When Massachusetts denied him an abatement on taxes he paid in a 1983 stock transaction, Koch sued.  He purchased and assigned the stock to Delaware corporations, and Massachusetts argued that he used those corporations simply to avoid taxes, not for any legitimate business purpose.  After a 10-year battle, the courts sided with Koch. He got $46-million - and left Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, back in Cape Cod, those in favor of the wind farm point out that calculating the price of electricity is a complicated thing. "Claims of cost increases are pretty speculative," says Mark Rodgers, communications director for the wind farm project, Cape Wind.

Even if prices do go up temporarily, using wind power would stabilize energy prices that now fluctuate wildly based on the price of oil and other fossil fuels, Rodgers and other supporters say. A Cape Wind data tower has been measuring wind conditions on the sound for the past five years, leading the developer to conclude that the wind farm could provide 75 percent of the electricity needed in the Cape Cod region.

"Here we have an indigenous source of energy right off our coast," says Barbara Hill, executive director of the Massachusetts nonprofit Clean Power Now. "This is our future."

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab

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