Thousands of comments poured into U.S. EPA yesterday as states, agencies, industry groups and stakeholders of all kinds raced to meet the agency’s comment deadline on its proposed rule for power-sector carbon emissions. The submissions, which EPA will digest as it works to formulate a final rule, touch on everything from the moral imperative of climate action to the minutiae of combined-cycle gas-fired power plants. But a much blunter message emerged from a number of states yesterday, one that put the often complex analysis of the rule in relatively simple terms.
For now, the House is preparing to move a more modest extenders bill to retroactively renew tax breaks that expired last year through the end of this year. Brady predicted that package would pass the House when it comes to a vote tomorrow, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said the Senate would have no choice but to adopt the one-year extension. Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who will hand the gavel to Hatch in January, said he is not ready to accept the House bill, which he said would be too hard on working-class people. Wyden moved a two-year extenders bill through committee on a bipartisan vote earlier this year, and he has said that he would prefer that approach.
Governors Urge House and Senate Leadership to Extend Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit
“Our states are national leaders in wind power. Today, 26 percent of South Dakota’s power generation comes from wind. In Washington State, developers added 2,800 megawatts of wind energy between 2001-2012… Oregon generates over 12 percent of its electricity from wind… In Iowa, where 27 percent of the state’s electricity generation comes from wind, MidAmerican Energy made the largest capital investment in the state’s history — building a wind farm that will add over $2 billion to Iowa’s economy.” “These achievements are directly attributable to the PTC — a successful federal policy that, along with supportive state policies, continues to drive private investment in our states. [I]n states that produce at least 7 percent of their electricity from wind, electricity prices have decreased over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by nearly 8 percent.”
A group of US state governors is urging Congress to approve a multi-year extension of the production tax credit and investment tax credit as soon as possible. A two-year PTC and ITC renewal is included in the bipartisan Senate EXPIRE Act. “Our states are national leaders in wind power,” said the coalition chairman, vice-chairman and former chairmen in a letter to House and Senate leaders, citing significant gains in South Dakota, Washington, Oregon and Iowa.
A bipartisan foursome of governors yesterday urged lawmakers to pass a two-year extension of the PTC, as in the Senate tax extenders package. “While we recognize there is support in Congress for phasing down these various tax incentives for all sectors in a comprehensive tax reform package, until we do, we must allow the nation’s wind industry to compete with other energy sources that also receive federal support.”
The House is planning to vote this week on a piecemeal bill that would reinstate dozens of expired tax breaks for this year, including those supporting renewable electricity, biofuels and energy efficiency, among others. The bill floated yesterday, H.R. 5771, came after the collapse last week of bipartisan negotiations around a much broader package, which would have included a longer-term phaseout of the production tax credit (PTC), which primarily benefits the wind industry (Greenwire, Nov. 26). But the broader debate over how to wean wind producers off the tax credit is widely expected to return next year, when Republicans will claim a majority in the House and Senate, aides and lobbyists said yesterday.
An “undeniable gut punch,” a “regulatory train wreck” and part of U.S. EPA’s “extreme environmentalist agenda” is how Republican lawmakers and industry groups are describing the Obama administration’s new proposal to clamp down on national smog standards. Administration officials and green groups insist that stricter standards for ground-level ozone are necessary to protect public health, but business groups are warning about skyrocketing costs and an inability to comply with tougher rules. Republican lawmakers today vowed to go to war over the rules, and the proposal is certain to spark protracted administrative and legal battles.
Attorneys general from 17 fossil-fuels-heavy states submitted joint comments to U.S. EPA yesterday, decrying its Clean Power Plan proposal as a bid to usurp state authority over the power grid. The group led by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) wrote that EPA’s proposal for power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions was an attempt to use the Clean Air Act’s Section 111(d) to circumvent Congress and the states. “Congress did not hide the authority to impose a national energy policy in the ‘mousehole’ of this obscure, little-used provision of the Clean Air Act, which EPA has only invoked five times in 40 years,” they wrote.
As the clock winds down to tonight’s public comment witching hour, supporters and opponents of U.S. EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas rule for power plants jockeyed for attention. There were already 1.6 million public comments submitted on the proposal last week, but many combatants in the war over EPA climate policy held their fire until after Thanksgiving, releasing statements hours before the public comment period closes at midnight tonight.
The tax-writing committees are trying to renew a bundle of expired tax breaks such as the deductions for state and local sales taxes and the research and experimentation credit. Some, like tax credits for renewable energy projects such as wind farms, are a hard sell for GOP conservatives but are eagerly sought by Midwestern Republicans such as Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. The House has passed legislation that would make several of the tax breaks permanent; the Senate’s approach has been to extend them only for 2014 and 2015. Negotiators appeared close to an agreement last week only to have the White House put it on ice with a veto threat. The administration said an emerging plan by House Republicans and top Senate Democrats was tilted too far in favor of businesses.