Senate sidesteps vote on PTC extension

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, July 13, 2012

The Senate today sidestepped an opportunity to extend a key wind industry tax break when Democratic leaders declined to schedule a vote on a bipartisan amendment to a small-business tax bill.

Supporters saw an amendment offered by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) as an opportunity to demonstrate bipartisan support for extending the wind production tax credit, which expires at the end of this year, because the amendment avoided political controversies that have helped sink earlier efforts to extend the PTC (E&E Daily, July 12).

But Democratic leaders today declined to allow a vote on the amendment, which was offered to the “Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act” the Senate was considering this afternoon. This is the second time this year the bipartisan pair has been denied a vote on its PTC extension after a similar amendment offered in February to the transportation bill also was denied a vote.

Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said in an email that the Colorado Democrat has been looking for “every opportunity, no matter how slim, because it is critical to our economy and energy future” to extend the credit. “He will continue the fight and look for the next opportunity. We cannot afford any further delay.”

The Bennet-Moran amendment would have extended through 2014 the PTC, which allows developers to claim a credit of 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour produced, and a separate investment tax credit, which provides a credit covering 30 percent of the costs of a wind development. The PTC primarily benefits utility-scale projects, while the ITC is mostly used to support smaller projects.

The amendment would have offset the cost of that extension by delaying application of worldwide interest allocation rules, an approach that has previously passed with bipartisan support. Previous Democratic efforts to extend the PTC would have paid for the credit by eliminating a suite of tax incentives enjoyed by oil and gas companies — an approach that was rejected by virtually all Republicans and some oil-state Democrats.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not respond to a request for comment on why the amendment wasn’t allowed to come to a vote.

The PTC is expected to ultimately be renewed, although lawmakers and aides have said action is unlikely until a postelection lame-duck session.

Meanwhile, today in the House, members of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition sent a letter to leaders of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee urging an extension of several renewable energy tax credits, including some provisions that expired at the end of last year.

“Our nation has been a leader in the research and development of many of these technologies,” the lawmakers wrote. “We must now ensure these past research and development investments pay dividends here at home in the form of a strong, domestic renewable energy sector.”