Left out of tax overhaul, energy interests look to extenders bill

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, December 15, 2017

Even as Republicans look to put the finishing touches on the first broad rewrite of the tax code in three decades, energy interests are pushing behind the scenes to see a host of unresolved energy matters quickly resolved through separate legislation.

While the final tax overhaul is expected to be filed later today, the decision by conferees to punt on disputed energy provisions in the House-passed bill has shifted the focus to a so-called extenders bill (E&E Daily, Dec. 14).

Rumors were flying yesterday that an extenders bill could be introduced imminently, and while its contents remain unclear, one lobbyist said the measure was “sounding like it could be pretty big.”

One idea under discussion for the past week has been a one-year retroactive extension of a host of credits that expired in 2016.

Also said to be in the mix are “orphaned” renewable credits that were left out of the 2015 deal that extended and phased down the renewable and investment tax credits.

Those breaks were included in the House-passed tax reform bill but were jettisoned from the final product amid acrimony about changes to the structure of the production tax credit and ITC.

Another possible addition is an extension of the nuclear PTC, which also passed the House but was dropped in conference.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a tax conferee, said he is pressing for that measure to be addressed in extenders but said the timing was unclear.

Yesterday, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) urged congressional leaders to also include their carbon capture and sequestration bill, S. 1535, in any extenders package.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said last week he would push to add bipartisan legislation expanding master limited partnership status to renewable projects if an extenders bill materializes (E&E Daily, Oct. 26).

Advocates want to see the extenders attached to either the next continuing resolution, which must be passed by Dec. 22, or in a subsequent stopgap spending measure that is expected by Jan. 19.

Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), also a tax conferee, said yesterday she prefers to see extenders resolved before the end of 2017.

“I’d like to just see that wrapped, just one less thing to deal with next year,” she told reporters yesterday.

But another Republican senator who requested anonymity indicated yesterday that a broad extenders package is more likely to happen in January.

Separately, key conferees said yesterday another simmering renewable energy fight in the Senate tax reform bill — over the unintended effects of base erosion anti-abuse tax provisions on renewable investment — is expected to be addressed in the final product (E&E News PM, Dec. 14).

Conference hurdles

Even as Republicans close in on securing a much-needed and significant legislative victory on tax reform, there were still roadblocks to be sorted out.

For starters, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) yesterday was threatening to withhold his support for the bill unless the size of a refundable child tax credit he’s pushed is increased.

Additionally, two Republican senators — Arizona’s John McCain and Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran of Mississippi — have been missing votes because of illnesses.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) acknowledged yesterday that he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had spoken several times about “possible absences.”

“It’s all about timing and managing absences in the Senate,” Ryan told reporters yesterday.

Leaders are hoping for a final vote early next week, but Murkowski said yesterday the timing was unclear because of potential absences.

“Obviously, we want to make sure that we have all members here,” she told reporters, adding that conferees were still focused on ironing out final details of the conference report. “Until that is filed, we can’t get that clock running.”