An April 8 discussion of lapsed tax incentives in the House Ways and Means Committee was notable mainly for what went unmentioned: the renewable energy production tax credit, a crucial incentive for the wind industry.
The lack of discussion about the PTC was partially by design. Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., convened the 140-minute hearing to talk about the potential implications of the tax reform draft he released Feb. 26. That long-shot proposal to overhaul and simplify the nation's tax code slashed all manner of energy subsidies and sought to make permanent the research and development credit and six other expired business tax provisions.
But committee Democrats, who raised concerns about the focus of the hearing and mentioned many other lapsed incentives, did not push the issue either.
Instead, ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., and his colleagues argued that making the business tax provisions permanent in isolation would add more than $125 billion to the deficit over a decade. Better to consider extending some of the 48 other lapsed incentives that could offset those costs at the same time, Levin said.
The PTC, however, is unlikely to make budgeting for Camp's preferred incentives any easier. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated April 3 that a two-year extension of a 2.3-cents-per-kWh subsidy for new wind turbines would cost taxpayers more than $13 billion over the next decade.
Despite the PTC's price tag, it was included in a tax extenders bill working its way through the Senate. The Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency Act cleared the Finance Committee April 3 on a bipartisan voice vote.
Asked when the EXPIRE Act will receive a vote in the full Senate, an aide to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in an email that it "is likely to come for debate in our next work period." That period begins April 28, when lawmakers return from their two-week Easter recess, and runs through May 23. But, the aide added, "discussions are ongoing."
Even opponents of the incentive think the bill likely will pass the Senate. "It is up to the House to stand up to the Senate and relieve taxpayers from the burden of the wind PTC," Chris Warren, a spokesman for the pro-fossil-fuel American Energy Alliance, said in an email. "This federal assistance comes out of the pockets of hard working American families who can no longer afford to foot the bill for the wind industry."
Wind industry representatives not concerned
The American Wind Energy Association, the industry's trade group, was not concerned by the lack of PTC discussion at the Ways and Means hearing. "It's unclear what the plan is for the House on extenders," Rob Gramlich, AWEA's senior vice president of public policy, said in an interview. However, he noted that the wind industry still has "very strong support from Democrats in the House and strong support from some, but not all, of the Republicans."
Eight House Republicans joined 100 Democrats in signing a March 21 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in support of the tax credit.
AWEA also is increasing its Hill presence. It announced April 7 that James Reilly, who currently is chief of staff for Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., will be joining the group in May as its senior vice president for federal legislative affairs.
"He has worked effectively with both parties and various stakeholders to craft and drive workable public policies," AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said in a statement announcing the hire.