Senate GOP eyes separate ‘extenders’ bill for energy

Source: Geof Koss and George Cahlink, E&E News reporters • Posted: Thursday, November 16, 2017

Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee said today they’re looking to assemble legislation to address a number of unresolved energy issues that will move separately from the broader tax overhaul the panel is marking up this week.

“We don’t want to mix the two together,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the former Finance Committee chairman, told E&E News this afternoon of the assortment of energy amendments that have been filed to the panel’s tax overhaul.

The more than two dozen energy-related offerings include several Grassley amendments that would address expired biodiesel tax breaks. Other proposals would extend a key nuclear production tax credit and a variety of “orphaned” renewable sources left out of a 2015 tax deal. The offerings also include a tweaked carbon capture and sequestration incentive, as well as a proposal to extend master-limited partnership (MLP) tax treatment from fossil fuel projects to clean energy sources (E&E Daily, Nov. 14).

Finance Republicans were pushing to address some of the energy amendments in the revised chairman’s mark unveiled late last night, but that effort fell short (E&E Daily, Nov. 15).

The plan “right now is to have an extenders bill that moves separately from the tax reform bill,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Finance panel and GOP leadership, said this afternoon.

However, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was noncommittal when asked about the possibility of another extenders package after tax reform.

“I don’t know,” he said as he entered a GOP luncheon off the Senate floor.

While it looks as if Republicans will hold on to their energy amendments in committee, it’s unclear whether Democrats will do the same.

The Finance markup is now in its third day, and the panel has yet to debate any of the 350-plus amendments that have been filed. Democrats have signaled they plan to use the amendment process to highlight the tax bill’s effect on the middle class.

The committee has spent the past two days questioning the Joint Committee on Taxation over the changes included in the bill. Members of both parties have sparred, heatedly at times, over the process, with Democrats complaining about the GOP decision to bring the Affordable Care Act into the tax bill, a change made in the revised bill released last night.

Despite talk of an extenders bill, ClearView Energy Partners today said energy issues could still come up in committee or the floor, citing as an example the bipartisan MLP amendment introduced by Hatch on behalf of Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

That proposal “could serve as a negotiating counterweight to House proposals to prorate the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC),” the analysts wrote, referencing the House bill’s retroactive repeal of an inflation adjustment for the PTC and new construction requirements for the ITC.

The House bill also contains a number of other energy provisions, including the extensions of the ITC for a handful of renewable sources left out of the 2015 agreement, as well as an extension of a key nuclear production tax credit that is crucial to Georgia lawmakers.

Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), a House Ways and Means Committee member and critic of renewable energy subsidies, said today he was satisfied with the House bill’s treatment of the PTC and ITC.

“I like it the way it is in the bill,” he told E&E News, adding he had not heard any discussion of a separate extenders bill.

However, more than 200 wind energy companies today wrote to House leaders urging them to jettison the PTC rate cut before tomorrow’s floor vote on the tax bill.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who last week unsuccessfully offered an amendment during the Ways and Means markup to preserve the PTC and ITC deal as enacted in 2015, said talk of a separate extenders bill highlights widespread frustration over the GOP tax reform push (Greenwire, Nov. 9).

“I think there’s a lot of blowback on what they’re doing,” he told E&E News this afternoon. “If it somehow passes, we’re going to be involved with fixing things that are just going to boil over.”