Bipartisan senators seek vote on ‘clean’ PTC extension

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012

A bipartisan pair of senators yesterday offered an amendment to a pending small business tax bill that would provide the Senate its first opportunity this year to vote on a straightforward extension of a key wind energy tax incentive, without delving into politically charged showdowns over unrelated issues such as oil company tax incentives or stimulus-funded renewable energy supports.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club today is stepping up the political fight to get the production tax credit extended, releasing new ads targeting three freshmen House Republicans and accusing the House of failing to enact a key job-creation measure.

In the Senate, it was unclear last night whether the amendment from Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) would come to a vote. The two offered an identical amendment earlier this year to the transportation bill, but the measure ultimately was not considered. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Bennet and Moran’s amendment would extend the production tax credit and investment tax credit for wind energy through 2014, aiming to provide a lifeline for an industry that has said development is set to plummet next year because of uncertainty around the credit’s scheduled expiration Dec. 31. The PTC allows developers to claim a 2.2 cent tax deduction for every kilowatt-hour of energy they produce, while the ITC offers a credit to cover 30 percent of the costs of constructing a wind farm. Utility-scale project developers primarily rely on the PTC, while the ITC primarily benefits smaller-scale efforts, such as community wind projects, an industry source says. The ITC should not be confused with the 1603 program, which was created by the 2009 economic stimulus law to provide grants in lieu of the credit.

“If we expect the wind energy industry to provide for our country’s future energy needs and make long-term investments in their businesses, Congress must reauthorize the wind production tax credit (PTC) that expires this year,” Moran said in a statement yesterday. “Rather than make it more difficult for the private sector to develop energy sources, we should lower taxes, reduce overly burdensome regulations, and allow the private sector to succeed in the free market. Our failure to extend this tax credit would destabilize this growing manufacturing industry and cost thousands of American jobs.”

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who is sponsoring a stand-alone bill to extend the PTC and has been making daily speeches from the Senate floor to advocate its extension, is an original co-sponsor of the amendment.

Extending the credit would be paid for by delaying application of worldwide interest allocation rules, an accounting provision that was first enacted in 2004 but has been postponed several times. Delaying the interest rules has previously attracted bipartisan support, increasing the chance it could garner significant support again, a Bennet spokesman said.

The amendment, if it comes to a vote, would give the Senate its first opportunity this year for a “clear up or down vote” on the wind tax breaks, said the spokesman, Adam Bozzi.

Previous efforts to extend the wind PTC in the Senate have come as part of broader packages that included more controversial provisions that triggered Republican opposition.

For example, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) earlier this year offered stand-alone legislation that would have extended the PTC and eliminated various tax breaks enjoyed by oil and gas companies. And Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) offered an amendment to the transportation bill that would have extended the PTC and other renewable energy supports, including a clean energy manufacturing credit and a green power grant program created in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Both measures fell on largely party-line votes.

Bennett and Moran yesterday offered their amendment to the “Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act,” which would provide a variety of small business tax breaks.