Lawmakers from both parties join to scrap Trump tariffs

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, April 20, 2018

A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers are making the first legislative push in Congress to repeal President Trump’s solar tariffs.

The “Protecting American Solar Jobs Act,” introduced today by Reps. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), would return solar duties to the rates in place before Trump’s executive action.

The bill would also allow companies that imported solar products after the tariffs to receive retroactive reimbursement.

“An attack on solar energy is an attack on the countless hardworking Nevadans who benefit from this growing industry,” Rosen said in a statement.

“A tariff is a tax, and I don’t know what good can possibly come as a consequence of stifling the growth of solar power,” added Sanford.

In January, Trump enacted 30 percent tariffs on imported solar cells and modules that would decline over a four-year period (E&E News PM, Jan. 23).

The fees responded to a petition from Suniva and SolarWorld Americas to address what they said was a flood of unfair imports primarily from Chinese-backed companies.

Much of the solar industry is opposed to tariffs, saying they will kill jobs without reviving manufacturing. The Solar Energy Industries Association is endorsing the bill.

Congress has split on the issue more by region than political party. Republicans from states with high solar growth often have opposed Trump, while some Democrats from manufacturing states backed the president’s view.

The bill’s prospects are considered slim because Trump would have to sign any measure, even though Congress does hold the authority to repeal the tariffs.

“The solar tariffs were imposed pursuant to delegated authority under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, and Congress retains the power to limit that power in general, or in regard to specific products like solar technology,” said Joshua Zive, a senior principal at Bracewell LLP.

The tariffs already are restructuring the U.S. energy sector. Yesterday, SunPower Corp. announced plans to buy SolarWorld Americas in an effort to get around the tariffs.

The deal, if finalized, could make SunPower the largest U.S. solar manufacturer and give the company a foothold to produce many of its solar components in Oregon (E&E News PM, April 18).

“It is clear that this administration wants more American manufacturing … and so we will be the domestic solar manufacturing industry,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner said on a panel discussion today at Columbia University.