Coons revives Senate bill to boost clean energy incentives 

Source: Daniel Bush, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) today introduced a bill that would give alternative energy sources the same tax advantages enjoyed by the fossil fuel industry, his third attempt at a tax code fix that has failed to gain traction in the past two Congresses.

The legislation would allow developers of solar, wind and other clean energy sources to form master limited partnerships (MLPs), a business structure that is traded as a corporate stock but taxed as a partnership.

Fossil fuel companies have formed MLPs to access capital at lower costs and reduce the tax burden on oil and gas projects since the 1980s, but renewable energy projects are barred from using the system under current tax law.

“Renewable energy technologies have made tremendous progress in the last several decades, and they deserve the same shot at success in the market as traditional energy projects,” Coons said in a statement.

Coons introduced shorter versions of this year’s “Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act” in 2012 and 2013, but both efforts failed despite drawing a roster of bipartisan sponsors in both the Senate and House.

The measures were unpopular with Republicans who oppose any federal support for clean energy programs, but also placed Democratic backers at odds with the White House, which has called for doing away with energy-sector MLPs altogether as a means to end tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

Coons pinned the measure’s failure last Congress on House leaders who sidelined small tax bills in favor of a sweeping tax reform package that failed to take shape.

But the Delaware Democrat said his bill stands a better chance the third time around because the prospects for tax reform this Congress have dwindled and lawmakers are working to craft a comprehensive energy reform bill that could include titles for energy-sector financing.

“I’m optimistic that that signals” the bill could pass, Coons said today on a call with reporters.

Clean energy groups cheered the legislation.

“Senator Coons’ MLP proposal would help to build on [the solar industry’s] tremendous success by leveling the playing field between clean, renewable energy and long-entrenched energy sources in America,” Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Rhone Resch said in a statement.

Coons did not say whether he expects the legislation to advance as a stand-alone bill or get folded into the broader energy package. But he mapped out a timeline in which the bill could come up for a vote in the fall and get signed into law by the end of the year.

“By September, we will know the likely trajectory,” he added.

This year’s legislation was co-sponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Angus King (I-Maine) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

A House version of the bill was co-sponsored by Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).