Floodgates open on extenders amendments

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Members of the Senate Finance Committee have filed dozens of amendments to the extenders package that the panel will mark up this morning, including a bevy of proposals that would expand clean energy incentives.

Not surprisingly, at least a half-dozen of the more than 100 amendments filed yesterday address the renewable production tax credit, which would be extended for two years under the committee’s base bill. While the majority of the amendments are unlikely to receive votes in committee, the markup will provide an opportunity for sponsors to test the waters for their proposals.

PTC foe Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has three amendments addressing the credit, including one that would strip it from the bill entirely. A second Toomey amendment would bar companies that receive the credit from eligibility for federal waivers that protect the bald eagle and other endangered species, according to a committee summary. Toomey also wants to bar individuals with adjusted gross incomes above $400,000 from claiming the PTC or any other energy tax credits extended by the bill.

There are also a few GOP amendments that would phase out the PTC, including one by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman that would reduce the PTC’s value for wind by 30 percent in 2017 and 40 percent in 2018 before being eliminated in 2019. Portman’s plan would also eliminate the 10 percent value of the investment tax credit by 2019 but would allow solar projects to claim the credit if they break ground before 2019.

ITC backers have pressed for an extension of the incentive, which currently allows companies to write off 30 percent of projects, although that value shrinks to 10 percent at the end of 2016.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), a co-sponsor of Toomey’s plan to strike the PTC, has his own phaseout plan, which would provide 80 percent of the credit for facilities that begin construction in 2016.

A plan by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) would make open-loop biomass and waste-to-energy facilities eligible for the PTC, while an amendment by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) would strike the section of the tax code that reduces the credit’s value over time.

On the ITC, Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has filed an amendment that would allow solar facilities to qualify if they begin construction before the end of 2016. The tweak — which was applied to the PTC in 2013 — would be a boon for solar companies, which currently only qualify to receive the PTC when projects come online and start producing power.

That approach is also included in a separate bipartisan amendment filed by Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Portman and Cantwell.

While it’s an uphill battle to add new provisions to the code on the extenders bill, Bennet and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) have filed an amendment that would allow renewable projects to qualify for master limited partnerships. Renewable interests have long sought access to MLP structures, which are traded as corporate stock but taxed as a partnership.

The Bennet-Stabenow proposal is based on S. 1656, a bill introduced this year by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) that enjoys bipartisan support (Greenwire, June 24).

Senate Republicans are aiming to resolve the annual fight over extenders as early as possible, but House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has said he plans to wait until the fall to address the issue.