December 30, 2011

Wind tower companies ask Commerce Department, ITC for investigation

By Lou Kilzer, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 30 December 2011

A green-energy war between American manufacturers and their Chinese counterparts escalated Thursday after American wind tower companies asked the Commerce Department and International Trade Commission to launch anti-dumping investigations.

The Wind Tower Trade Coalition also accused Vietnam of dumping below-market wind towers on the U.S. market. Utility-scale towers are large towers that connect to the American power grid.

The actions follow in the footsteps of similar complaints brought by U.S. solar panel manufacturers against China earlier their year that has spurred threats of retaliation from Chinese manufacturers.

Lawyers for the WTTC said in a statement that as a result of dumping by the two Asian countries “the U.S. industry is suffering severe harm as seen in employment levels, pricing, production and profits.”

“The Chinese and Vietnamese industries are using unfair pricing practices to capture critical sales from the U.S. industry,” Alan Price of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Wiley Rein said in a statement.

“I expect to win,” Price said in an interview with the Tribune-Review.

The complaints only deal with wind towers – not the electricity-producing turbines.

Daniel Pickard, another Wiley Rein attorney, said the four companies that comprise the WTTC represent 75 to 80 percent of the domestic wind-tower industry.

Wiley Rein is the same firm that represents Oregon-based SolarWorld USA and six other firms in their complaint against Chinese solar manufacturers. SolarWorld USA is a subsidiary of a German company, but does significant manufacturing in the U.S.

The complaint has split the U.S. solar industry into two camps -– installers who enjoy a boost in business because Chinese firms have lowered solar panel prices, and manufactures who say Chinese government subsidies that help create the lower prices that threaten the American manufacturing base.

Price said he didn`t know if the petitions filed yesterday will have a similar effect on the wind industry. “We`ll have to wait and see how it develops,” he said.

The attorneys said they expect the ITC to make a preliminary ruling in February and the Commerce Department to make a preliminary ruling within six months.

In the SolarWorld case, the ITC ruled 6-0 for the U.S. manufacturers earlier this month. Commerce has yet to make a decision.

The WTTC said “the Chinese government has used, and continues to use, unprecedented levels of subsidization to push wind towers into the U.S. market.”

If successful, the petitions could result in significant duties being placed on Chinese and Vietnamese utility-scale wind towers.

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