Senate Finance panel members to huddle on fate of extenders

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is convening a closed-door meeting this afternoon to hear committee members’ views on a variety of temporary tax measures that have expired or are scheduled to sunset at the end of this year, including a key wind industry tax break.

It is the second such meeting Baucus has convened this summer to discuss the fate of the “tax extenders,” among other issues on the committee’s plate. A meeting last month produced some optimism but few concrete breakthroughs (E&E Daily, June 13).

Baucus yesterday said committee members were “making headway” in sorting through the myriad expired and expiring provisions and that he hoped to have a better idea in the next few days of what could be extended.

The production tax credit for wind energy, which expires Dec. 31, has been a key focus of the discussion for clean energy backers and their advocates on Capitol Hill. Jobs already are being lost in the wind industry as projects are put on hold because of uncertainty surrounding the tax credit, which provides developers a 2.2-cent credit for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated.

“Immediate extension of the Production Tax Credit remains critical in order to save 37,000 U.S. wind manufacturing jobs that will otherwise be lost in the next year,” the American Wind Energy Association said in a statement. “Americans all over the country who are working in wind are eagerly waiting to hear what Congress will do about extending the PTC because their jobs depend on it.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a Finance Committee member and PTC proponent, said he would be at the meeting today to push for a PTC extension. He said it was unclear whether lawmakers would be able to move an extenders package before the election, although he suggested there was growing bipartisan interest in getting a package done.

Cardin also said House and Senate lawmakers were attempting to coordinate their work as much as possible to reach agreement before bringing a package to the floor. But he said they had yet to agree on issues such as how or whether to pay for extenders and how long the provisions should be extended, with Congress expected to embark on comprehensive tax reform as soon as next year.

“So we’re looking for a common denominator that allows us to move forward with critical extenders as soon as possible — hopefully before the lame duck — so that there’s more predictability in our economy for the importance of these tax credits to energy and related activities,” Cardin said.