Op-Ed: Congress abandons American workers

Source: By John Purcell, Argus Leader • Posted: Friday, December 1, 2017

In 2015, my company made a big investment in Brandon. We opened a new 30,000 square foot facility, at a cost of $6 million. Our new distribution center would supply American-made steel to businesses across South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wyoming.

Why did we choose to locate in Brandon? A big reason is the booming wind business in South Dakota and its neighboring states. It’s no secret that wind turbines are large, so locating any manufacturing and distribution facilities near areas of busy wind development just makes good business sense. These new facilities bring jobs and economic development with them, creating opportunities for American workers.

But the House’s recently passed tax reform bill could bring future stories like our Brandon facility to a screeching halt. It breaks a 2015 bipartisan deal to phase down the wind energy Production Tax Credit. The PTC is the tool Congress created to help wind developers access the private capital needed to build wind farms and that tool has worked.

The certainty created by the PTC phase down spurred American businesses into action. Factory orders for new turbines rolled in, construction contracts to build new wind farms were signed and tens of thousands of new U.S. jobs were created. Companies made multi-billion investments, depending on Congress’s promise.

Now, the House’s bill changes the rules in the middle of the game. It would significantly cut the PTC’s value and create new retroactive regulations on how wind developers qualify it – regulations companies cannot go back in time to comply with. That means wind projects that were once economically sound could become financially unviable. Despite having already made multi-billion investments, some businesses will have to walk away from already finalized deals for new wind turbines and break construction contracts to build new projects.

And that’s bad for companies and workers in the wind turbine supply chain.

If the House’s proposal becomes law, half of the wind farms scheduled to come online between now and 2020 won’t get built, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That will cause a corresponding number of job losses – up to 60,000 U.S. jobs are at risk and the House’s bill jeopardizes $50 billion of private infrastructure investment.

Fortunately the Senate, with leaders like Sen. John Thune, has left the terms of the PTC phase out unchanged in its tax reform proposal. That will keep American jobs growing and continue bringing a huge economic boost to rural America.

Congress cannot change the rules in the middle of the game. Tax reform is supposed to help American businesses and workers thrive. The House’s proposal does the opposite – by reneging on a done deal it endangers them.

We hope that senators and representatives from other states will follow Senator Thune’s lead and keep their promise to American wind workers. The House’s bill is about more than the bottom line – it will hurt real American families and that certainly is not supposed to be the outcome of tax reform.

John Purcell is vice president at Leeco Steel, which is also a member of the American Wind Energy Association. My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships.