GOP hopes to take some of the wind out of industry’s government aid

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, April 15, 2013

Growing concern over duplication of federal programs to aid wind energy development will receive more attention this week in the House.

A hearing tomorrow will consider the findings of a recent Government Accountability Office report on various overlapping federal programs to benefit the industry (Greenwire, March 28). The Republican-requested report has bolstered the efforts of some GOP lawmakers and outside conservative groups to end the production tax credit, the industry’s main support mechanism, and otherwise dial back the extent to which the government subsidizes clean energy development.

The credit was extended through the end of this year, and President Obama in his budget said it should be made permanent. But industry sources generally do not think a permanent extension is politically feasible and are still formulating their lobbying strategy to seek either a multiyear phaseout in the context of overall tax reform or another short-term renewal as part of a potential “tax extenders” package (E&E Daily, April 11).

Activists are questioning the report’s findings, arguing that GAO inflated the number of programs benefiting wind energy by including defunct programs or counting support from programs that aid a broad source of energy sources. The Checks and Balances Project, a liberal nonprofit, today is filing a formal request for GAO’s records, including communications with congressional staff, that went into preparation of the report.

“The American public deserves some answers about how this happened,” the group’s director, Gabriel Elsner, writes in the request. “By wide margins, they support pro-clean energy policies, and they don’t want their money going to long-outmoded, vastly larger corporate welfare for fossil fuels.”

House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) requested the report, alongside Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Paul Broun (R-Ga.), who are leaders of the Science subcommittees on environment and oversight, respectively.

The two subcommittees are convening tomorrow’s hearing, which will feature testimony from GAO, two wind industry critics and the head of the industry’s main trade association.

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, April 16, at 2 p.m. in 2318 Rayburn.

Witnesses: Frank Rusco, director, Natural Resources and the Environment, Government Accountability Office; Robert Michaels, professor of economics, Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, California State University, Fullerton; Audra Parker, president and CEO, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound; and Robert Gramlich, interim CEO and senior vice president for policy, American Wind Energy Association.