Disputed House PTC ITC provisions said to be dropped

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2017

Disputed energy provisions in the House’s tax reform overhaul appear to be heading for the wayside, as negotiators close in on a final package they plan to vote on next week.

Conferees yesterday were guarded in their comments on the talks, but senators said a deal on a general framework was largely complete. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said the conference report will be filed tomorrow.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told E&E News that the agreement would honor the terms of a 2015 deal that extended and phased down the production tax and investment tax credits that have boosted wind and solar.

“We believe the [Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes] Act is the settled law, and even though the House wanted to kind of revise that, we expect it to stay intact,” he said.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), also a conferee, declined to comment on specifics of the tax title but echoed her comments earlier this week that wind, solar and nuclear production tax credits would most likely wait for a later extenders bill (E&E Daily, Dec. 13).

“There is a path forward for all of that,” she told reporters, saying energy sectors awaiting word on the fate of specific breaks shouldn’t “panic.”

She and Thune both indicated that efforts continue to fix the base erosion anti-abuse tax provisions in the Senate bill — which renewable sectors say will stifle foreign investment.

“They’re still in flux,” Murkowski said.

However, she indicated the title that her committee contributed to the tax overhaul — which opens part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling and lifts offshore revenue-sharing caps for the Gulf of Mexico under a 2006 law — was unchanged.

That includes language authorizing the sale of 700 million barrels of Strategic Petroleum Reserve oil in fiscal 2026 and 2027, with sales ending once $600 million has been raised.

A ‘reality show’?

Conferees met for nearly three hours yesterday for what is likely to be the only formal meeting of the conference.

The discussion became heated over the course of the afternoon, with Brady repeatedly rebuffing Democrats’ efforts to force motions to adjourn or make parliamentary inquiries.

He also strictly enforced the three minutes conferees were allowed to speak and spoke over members who kept talking after their time expired until they ceased.

Despite rumors of a deal, Democrats were incensed that there were no details presented at the meeting. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) declared the proceedings a “reality show version of a conference committee.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee who is known for cracking jokes and seeking compromise, erupted after it became clear the conference committee was unlikely to meet again, depriving conferees of the opportunity to offer amendments.

“I’m not the only one here out of order,” he responded after Brady ruled that his inquiries ran afoul of conference rules.

Murkowski and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) applauded the inclusion of ANWR in the bill. Murkowski was briefly interrupted by a protester who stood and spoke loudly before turning and walking out of the room.

Young, who slammed ANWR critics for not knowing “the history” of the reserve, noted that he wore cowboy boots to the proceedings because of the “manure” Democrats were raising over drilling there.

That prompted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to later retort, “When you create manure, you have to walk in it.”