Several groups are pushing reports and stepping up messaging this week to get the Senate to vote on a crucial wind tax incentive before the current work session ends.
Organizations friendly to the wind industry have dubbed this week “Wind Week,” sensing urgency to get a 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour credit for wind power production extended. That incentive, known as the production tax credit (PTC), is set to expire Dec. 31.
Bob Keefe, a spokesman with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told The Hill on Monday that the groups feel they have an eight-day window to get the incentive through the Senate. Failing to do that before the Senate departs until after the Nov. 6 election might precipitate another wave of job losses, the groups fear.
“The idea is that the PTC is gong to expire at the end of the year, Congress doesn’t have a whole lot of time to do something about it and these eight days are going to be crucial,” Keefe said.
The Senate Finance Committee passed a $205 billion tax extenders package before the August recess that included the wind incentive.
The groups supporting the PTC hope that at least getting it through the Senate will give a signal to the industry, even though the incentive faces tougher prospects in the House. For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he is “very confident” the incentive will clear the Senate this year.
Peter Kelley, a spokesman with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), told The Hill on Monday that his organization had not heard whether there would be a Senate vote on the tax extenders package this week.
“I guess with every day it becomes more likely that the whole thing will have to be done in the lame duck,” he said. “The Senate Finance Committee got it right, and now it’s up to the folks to make floor time.”
PTC supporters say the uncertainty surrounding the incentive has already forced layoffs. They, along with the Obama administration, say extending the incentive would preserve 75,000 jobs but letting it end would kill 37,000 jobs.
But even if the Senate does have the will to pass the wind incentive, it is still wrapped up in a broader, more complicated tax bill, Keefe noted. He said that might explain why the incentive has not yet drawn a vote, as many lawmakers are holding out for federal tax code reform.
The incentive’s outlook in the House is more uncertain than in the Senate. The lower chamber has yet to seriously debate the issue, making its passage before the election unlikely.
The Republican-controlled House might be more inclined to wait on the incentive until after the election. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, unlike President Obama, wants the incentive to end as scheduled.
On top of that, conservative groups are strongly against the incentive. Americans for Prosperity, partially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, and 60 other right-leaning groups opposed the incentive in a letter sent to Congress last week.
But getting the Senate to green light the tax credit before the election would at least calm concerns in the wind industry, proponents have said.
The incentive’s supporters will release reports and boost communication with lawmakers this week with the goal of getting a Senate vote, Keefe said. NRDC will release two reports on the wind industry Tuesday, he said.
And the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) confirmed with The Hill that it will release a report Thursday on Atlantic offshore wind energy. Environment America and other organizations partnered in the report, NWF said.
Also, executives from health, environmental and energy organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership on Monday pushing for an extension to the PTC and offshore wind investment tax credit. Signatories included NRDC, Environmental Defense Club, Blue Green Alliance and Physicians for Social Responsibility, among others.
Keefe said the letter signatories are meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill throughout the week, noting his organization had already upped contact with legislators about the PTC on Monday.
The groups signing the letter said the 50 gigawatts of installed U.S. wind electric generating capacity is the equivalent of taking the carbon pollution from 14 million cars off the road. They also packaged the incentives as a jobs issue.
“Businesses are shuttering and people are being laid off. These are real people with families who are now out of work and don’t have to be,” the letter said. “Thousands more are on the chopping block if Congress chooses to stop progress instead of allowing wind’s success story to continue.”