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Wind Rights Bill Gets Overwhelming Support In Colorado

DENVER (CBS4) - Wind energy is a growing industry in Colorado, and right now landowners can actually sell the rights to the wind above their property. But that may soon change.

Whoever thought of wind as something you own and can sell? It's an intriguing concept that gaining popularity, and is now the focus of a landmark bill at the state Capitol.

On the Eastern Plains vast stretches of farmland beckon wind developers. But in a state where agriculture is the second largest economy, the difficulty has been how to harvest what blows above the land while not losing the harvest grown on it.

"What we don't want to do is allow the wind developers to come in and buy the rights," said Rep. Jon Becker, R-Morgan County.

Becker is behind a first-of-its-kind bill that details wind rights in Colorado. It says while landowners own the wind above their property, they can't sell it. They can't separate wind rights from the land like is done with mineral rights. But they can lease it.

"I believe this is a true property rights issue. It allows a surface owner to say where those towers be, how long that lease looks, who takes care of the towers when the lease is up," Becker said. "We thought maybe the wind companies would question this. They actually believe this is the better way to take care of harvesting wind energy."

Becker says it gives them access to land they otherwise would have to convince a farmer to sell. Now the farm would stay intact for future generations, and the family has another source of income as well.

"It keeps money heading into Eastern Colorado. It keeps those families on the farm and providing food for us," Becker said.

He calls it an economic development bill. And while it's taken him a year to explain it, he says he now has overwhelming support.

"You know it seems too good to be true," Becker said. "It's a great bill."

The bill grandfathers in wind rights that have already been sold and it makes it clear the wind developer, not the landowner, would pay taxes on the wind energy produced.

The bill has bipartisan support and is expected to come out of the House this week and sail through the Senate.

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