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Senate brushes back wind tax credit

WASHINGTON – A tax credit for wind energy providers that will soon expire suffered a setback in the Senate Tuesday as lawmakers rejected a one-year extension.

But the defeat owed more to what was attached to it – a grant program tied to the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus – and lawmakers are likely to revisit the extension.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has been an advocate for the production tax credit, which has the potential to boost wind energy production in Northern New York and other parts of the state where the industry is beginning to take hold. She voted for the measure Tuesday.

The extension of the tax credit, along with more than a dozen other energy-related credits and grants, failed on a 49-49 vote, failing to gain the 60 votes needed under a Senate agreement. Its chief sponsor was Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, who offered it as an amendment to a two-year highway bill.

Republicans opposed the measure, including senators who support the tax credit extension. But anything connected to the stimulus is a tough sell with the GOP.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, a chief sponsor of the wind tax credit, pledged Tuesday to find a bipartisan way to extend it.

Mrs. Gillibrand wrote to Senate leaders in December to urge the program’s extension, saying it has helped create tens of billions of dollars of investment in expanding alternative energy capacity. That, in turn, has helped boost manufacturing jobs in areas hit hard by the recession, she said.

The Senate turned away a proposal by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to repeal all tax credits tied to specific energy sources.

The American Wind Energy Association was disappointed by the extension’s failure, said the association’s chief executive officer, Denise Bode, in a statement.

“The clock is ticking and the stakes for a timely extension of the PTC could not be clearer,” Ms. Bode said. “We stand to lose one of America’s best new sources of American manufacturing jobs.”