Democrats pressure Grassley on clean energy incentives

Source: By Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2020

More than two dozen Senate Democrats are calling on Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to take action on an assortment of energy tax bills from members of both parties.

Twenty-seven Democrats, led by Finance ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), made the plea yesterday in a letter to Grassley in which they cite the growing risks of climate change.

Noting recent federal data that shows the past decade was the hottest on record, Democrats note “clear interest” among lawmakers in legislating on energy taxes, given that 69 senators from both parties are backing almost three dozen energy tax proposals.

“These proposals run the gamut of energy policy, covering electricity, renewable fuels, energy efficiency, fossil fuels, transportation infrastructure, heavy industry, carbon capture, and agriculture,” wrote the Democrats.

“Proposed legislation includes addressing the adoption of electric vehicles, expanding existing provisions to incorporate new technologies like energy storage or nascent industries like offshore wind, and sweeping rewrites of energy tax policy, such as the Clean Energy for America Act.”

Furthermore, Democrats note, the Finance Committee has not held a hearing on energy tax policy in the current or previous Congress.

And while a bipartisan Finance task force made recommendations on energy taxes last summer, that plan and multiple related bills were ignored in the extenders tax package that was signed into law in December.

“This committee must fulfill its role in examining members’ energy tax proposals and in bolstering our nation’s efforts to combat climate change,” the Democrats concluded, urging Grassley to “swiftly schedule committee action to address these proposals and ensure our nation’s energy tax policies keep up with the changing energy and climate landscape.”

The letter is the latest attempt by Democrats to regroup on clean energy breaks following the collapse in year-end tax talks, which yielded a limited agreement to extend most expired energy tax breaks through the end of this year (E&E Daily, Dec. 17, 2019).

That agreement came about after a broader deal that would have included more clean energy breaks sought by Democrats fell apart after the White House intervened.

A spokeswoman for Grassley did not respond to a request for comment, but the Finance chairman was among those left unhappy about the scaled-back tax deal, which he attributed at the time to a “pretty darn convoluted” process (E&E Daily, Dec. 19, 2019).

Finance member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said yesterday that a return to regular order would bolster the prospects of a broader energy tax package later this year.

“Use some semblance of normal committee procedures and I think we can get a broader consensus on an energy bill, rather than having it always parachuted into some other vehicle when we haven’t had a chance to really thrash out good policy,” said Cardin, who was among the signatories of the letter to Grassley.

In the House, Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said last month that he was planning to mark up a broad green energy package in the coming weeks (E&E Daily, Jan. 31).