Biden DOJ Says Trump ‘Lawfully’ Killed Solar-Tariff Loophole

Source: By Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg • Posted: Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Donald Trump

Donald Trump. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

The climate-focused Biden Administration said former President Donald Trump “acted lawfully and fully within his authority” when he killed a tariff exemption for two-sided solar panels, marking a potential setback to clean-power developers.

The Justice Department on Monday asked the U.S. Court of International Trade to dismiss a lawsuit by parties including the Solar Energy Industries Association, which in December challenged Trump’s move to stiffen tariffs on imported solar equipment.

“The President followed the law and, thus, the Court should dismiss the complaint,” the government said in a filing.

The government’s motion comes as the White House aims to boost renewable-power capacity in a bid to green the country’s electric grids by 2035. For some developers, the solar tariffs represent an impediment to that objective, adding to the costs of clean-energy projects.

A SEIA spokesman declined to comment on the Monday filing.

The Justice Department’s request to dismiss the suit relies heavily on the president’s wide authority when it comes to trade matters. Trump acted after receiving a U.S. International Trade Commission report that the loophole was affecting the domestic solar industry. Federal law allows the president to modify duties, and here he merely imposed ones that had been contemplated, the government said.

In early 2018, Trump approved four years of tariffs. Their implementation followed a campaign promise to get tough on China, which dominates solar-panel manufacturing, and boost the U.S. industry. His administration later surprised many companies in the industry when he granted an exclusion for two-sided, or bifacial, panels. While bifacial was considered a niche product at the time, the tariffs had encouraged some new U.S. solar manufacturing, and duty-free module imports posed a threat.

The case is Solar Energy Industries Association v. U.S., 20-3941, U.S. Court of International Trade (New York).