Sierra Club begins pressing Congress to extend production tax credit

Source: Scott Streater, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Sierra Club this week launched a new lobbying campaign designed to persuade Congress to extend a lucrative federal tax incentive that’s credited with expanding the wind power industry and supporting tens of thousands of jobs

The “Wind Works” campaign, which the Sierra Club formally launched yesterday, comes as President Obama continues to press Congress to extend the production tax credit (PTC) that’s set to expire at the end of the year.

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures plans to convene a panel of experts Friday to discuss the best way for Congress to deal with the extension of the wind PTC and more than 100 other temporary tax measures scheduled to disappear at year’s end (E&E Daily, June 4).

Obama placed the PTC extension on an election year “To Do List” of five actions that, if adopted, the White House contends “will create jobs and help restore middle class security” (Greenwire, May 8).

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has estimated that 37,000 jobs across the industry are at risk next year if the tax credits expire. To underscore that point, Obama last month traveled to a wind-tower manufacturing plant in Newton, Iowa, to rip congressional Republicans for failing to already extend the PTC (E&E Daily, May 25).

“The ‘Wind Works’ campaign is the Sierra Club’s move to the next level, in advocating for renewable energy jobs and ensuring America transitions to a clean energy economy,” Dave Hamilton, clean energy director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said in a statement. “Congress is holding thousands of high-quality American jobs in their hands, but every day of uncertainty for the industry is causing more delayed projects and more layoffs.”

The Sierra Club campaign will include tactics ranging from organizing the group’s 1.4 million members and supporters to take grass-roots action at the local level, to creating paid media advertisements, said Eitan Bencuya, a Sierra Club spokesman.

The group says that there are more than 400 manufacturing plants nationwide building wind components, such as turbines, and that wind power already supplies 20 percent of the electricity in states including Iowa and South Dakota. Altogether, the wind industry is on track to produce 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030, according to the Sierra Club.

Indeed, 2011 was another strong year for the industry, according to AWEA, with the installation of more than 6,800 megawatts of wind power capacity.

The Bureau of Land Management, which has used public land to promote wind and other renewables development, has prioritized five large-scale wind projects for approval this year. Among them is the 1,000-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which is proposed to sit on 320,000 acres of BLM and private ranch land in Carbon County, Wyo., and would be the largest wind farm in North America.

But it’s unlikely the wind industry will continue to grow without the PTC extension, Hamilton said, and that’s why the Sierra Club has established the new campaign.

“This campaign will ensure lawmakers know that Americans want clean energy solutions,” he said, “and that they won’t sit back while congressional inaction causes further job losses.”