House panel to open inquiry into expiring tax extenders

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, April 23, 2012

With the clock ticking on a bevy of coveted energy tax provisions that are set to disappear at the end of this year, a key House subcommittee later this week will launch its inquiry into how or whether to throw a lifeline to industries that rely on the favorable tax treatment.

Energy tax provisions, such as the production tax credit (PTC) for wind that expires at the end of this year, as well as expired programs such as the 1603 grant fund, will be among those considered at a wide-ranging hearing Thursday morning before the House Ways and Means Committee’s subpanel on select revenue measures.

The subcommittee will consider a variety of tax provisions for energy developers, other businesses and individuals that were included in a 2010 package that extended several renewable-energy tax provisions, such as the 1603 program, as part of a broad income tax and unemployment insurance deal (E&E Daily, Dec. 17, 2010).

It also will consider any other tax measure expiring before the end of this year, other than those handled in other sections of the 2010 bill or related to a transportation trust fund, according to a committee news release. Testimony at the hearing will be limited to members of Congress who have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation related to the relevant tax provisions.

“This hearing provides a formal opportunity for the Subcommittee to hear from our House colleagues about the merits of extending — or not extending — many of these tax policies,” subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) said in a statement last week.

A GOP committee aide last week did not respond to a call seeking additional information on the hearing, and it remains unclear how prominent discussion of the energy measures will be compared to the other aspects of the 2010 deal. A Democratic aide said minority staff had not been told who would be testifying at the hearing or given any details beyond the committee’s news release.

Extension of the wind PTC, which was not included in the deal but expires at the end of this year, has broad bipartisan support and is seen as the top priority for many renewable energy advocates on Capitol Hill. Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) have introduced a bill that would extend through 2016 the PTC for wind and other renewable sources such as biomass or geothermal, and 91 House lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors.

A Blumenauer aide said the two sponsors planned to testify together on their bill during the hearing, around 1 p.m. Thursday.

The 1603 program is more controversial, owing to its origin in the 2009 economic stimulus law. The program provides a grant to cover 30 percent of a developer’s costs for a renewable energy project, which can be claimed in lieu of production or investment tax credits. The Senate earlier this year struck down a provision that would have reinstated the program, which faced unanimous Republican opposition, and it is emerging as a new favorite target for GOP lawmakers looking to criticize the Obama administration’s energy record.

Other provisions in the 2010 tax deal that could come up at Thursday’s hearing include excise tax credits for biodiesel, credits for energy-efficient homes or appliances and a credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling stations.

Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, April 26, at 10 a.m. in 1100 Longworth.

Witnesses: TBA, but limited to members of the House who have either introduced or co-sponsored legislation related to tax extenders during the 112th Congress.