Tehachapi, CA – According to leaked documents, Republican Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy has been a long-courted, pivotal figure in pushing for the extension of production tax credits for alternative energy companies.
In a 2011 Annual Report produced by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a section devoted to public policy describes an “outreach program” to legislative members of a so-called Super Committee on production tax credits, of which McCarthy is the prime target. The document, referring to a coordinated effort toward McCarthy, describes “a grassroots and grasstips program focused on Majority Whip McCarthy (R-CA) to secure his support for a PTC extension.”
The effort involved the combined resources, according to the documents, of AWEA members, utility companies, environmental groups, and trade associations, and included at least one fundraising event for the Congressman’s current campaign.
Production tax credits (PTCs) have been in place since 1992 and allow developers/owners of wind projects to reduce their tax burdens in exchange for producing electricity. The credits can reduce the total project costs by as much as one-third. The current PTC structure is set to expire at the end of this year and its loss, according to some, would be a significant blow to an industry already reeling from vendor troubles, investor impatience, and competing product pressures.
The documents in question, which date from 2011 and were referenced (but not in detail) in a Washington Post story, were produced by AWEA, the principal national advocacy organization for the wind power industry. The documents obtained by examiner.com include strategies developed to win support during 2011-2012 for production tax credits in the U.S. Senate and Congress. McCarthy and his staff are referenced throughout the more than 200 pages in the document.
Among other highlights in the documents:
• AWEA hosted a fundraiser for McCarthy which netted $20,000 for his re-election campaign;
• AWEA executed a federal outreach program, targeting the Congressional Super Committee member McCarthy, along with Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Michigan), Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch;
• McCarthy’s staff was pressed for his sponsorship of a four-year extension of production tax credits and assured of the “political viability” of sponsorship;
• AWEA developed a plan to have “key influencers” in seven wind energy companies contact McCarthy and his staff regarding the PTC extension.
McCarthy (R-CA, 22nd District), long an enthusiastic advocate for solar and wind projects in his district, has arguably turned from a blushing bride to a sullen spouse of late, possibly because his enthusiasm for government-targeted help to specific industries is not shared by many conservative colleagues in his party, nor by the Republican nominee, Gov. Mitt Romney. In addition, recent failures of green energy companies such as Solyndra and lithium battery manufacturer A123 Systems, once awash with government money, have made direct federal investments a hard sell.
For its part, AWEA also declined any official comment on the role McCarthy has played to extend PTCs.
“That’s a tricky issue,” said one AWEA spokesperson, who declined to be identified, indicating that the documents in question appeared on a website after the November 11, 2011 Board of Directors meeting in Carlsbad, California. AWEA was successful, the spokesperson said, in having the documents removed from two websites, but not before copies appeared online.
“I really don’t see what the interest is, to be honest,” said Ellen Carey, AWEA Manager of Media Relations, because these documents are nearly two years old now. Carey declined further comment upon the content of the AWEA strategy and McCarthy’s importance, citing the need to confer with AWEA management and legal counsel.
In a subsequent email response, Carey emphasized that “AWEA is running a bipartisan campaign about American jobs, energy independence, and a diverse energy portfolio.” The organization contends, according to the email, that ”75,000 jobs and 470 factories, which depend on the wind energy market, are on the line if Congress fails to act – that needs to be part of this year’s campaign dialogue.
“As for specific questions to the reasons certain legislators support wind energy and the PTC,” the email concluded, “that is something that is best answered by the congressperson himself.”
Linda Parker, a director with Kern Wind Energy Association (KWEA), called Rep. McCarthy’s support for wind power “absolutely critical,” but declined to answer follow-up questions. The documents reflect that KWEA intended to coordinate a conference call with AWEA and its associated organizations.
McCarthy’s offices in Bakersfield and Washington, D.C. have declined numerous requests for clarification and comment regarding both the documents and extension of PTCs.
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