Heinrich, Heller float bill to repeal tariffs

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Lawmakers are making the first legislative push in the Senate to overturn solar tariffs imposed by President Trump.

Yesterday, Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced the “Protecting American Solar Jobs Act,” S. 3022, which would repeal the tariffs and allow companies affected by higher-price imports to receive retroactive compensation.

“We need to look at the bigger picture of the American solar industry and its role as a major employer of American workers,” Heinrich said.

Heller said the bipartisan bill would protect “Nevadans’ jobs in this important sector.”

In January, the president ordered a 30 percent tariff on solar panel imports. The tariffs decline incrementally over a four-year period (Greenwire, Jan. 22).

Since the tariffs came into force, several companies have announced plans for U.S. solar manufacturing facilities, prompting Trump supporters to proclaim the tariffs are working.

Most recently, Hanwha Q Cells Korea Corp. announced it would build a solar manufacturing plant in Georgia. Chinese solar manufacturer JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. also said it was planning to open a manufacturing facility in the United States and tied the decision to tariffs.

Yet the Solar Energy Industries Association, which is supporting the bill, claims that any manufacturing gains will be far offset by losses in jobs and investments.

Last month, Cypress Creek Renewables said it recently canceled $1.5 billion in planned investments and stalled a third of planned construction for 2018 (Greenwire, May 4).

Reuters reported yesterday that Southern Current announced cancellation of an additional $1 billion in solar projects. The $2.5 billion between those companies is more than double the approximate $1 billion in new U.S. solar manufacturing facilities that have been announced, SEIA said.

In April, Schletter Inc., a U.S.-based solar racking manufacturer, cited the negative impact of tariffs in a bankruptcy filing.

There is opposition to the tariffs from lawmakers in both political parties. Last month, Republicans sent a letter to administration officials urging tariff exemption for utility-scale solar panels (Greenwire, May 10).

Other senators from manufacturing states, including three Democrats, urged Trump in a letter last year to impose an “effective remedy” that would protect against Chinese solar imports.

The Senate bill is a companion to one in the House in April from Reps. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.).