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April 04, 2014

Wind Wins in Senate Committee

Wind Turbine
Yesterday afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee advanced a critically important package of renewable energy tax credits, moving one step closer toward renewing these expiring or expired investments that help support clean energy jobs all over the country. The package includes the progressive renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) - key policies originally enacted to support the development of renewable energy production facilities here at home, boosting the American wind industry. But four months ago, those credits expired, resulting in job losses nationwide as the rug was pulled out from under the thriving wind sector - all while  fossil fuel companies counted among the most profitable in the world continued to get massive tax handouts.  

Today, the Senate Finance Committee gave a bipartisan vote of support to these wind investments, passing a successful mark-up of legislation including the wind energy PTC that should lead to consideration on the Senate floor soon.

The clearest sign of support for wind jobs and clean energy came in the face of opposition. Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, attempted to pass an amendment that would have crippled clean energy investments -- only to be met by a stiff wind of bipartisan support for these vital job-creating credits.

Toomey was only able to rally five Republicans to his side. Republican Senators John Cornyn, Mike Crapo, Rob Portman, and John Thune  joined 13 Democrats in supporting wind energy, sending Toomey’s amendment to the scrap heap by a vote of 6 to 18.

Senator Chuck Grassley - an Iowa Republican from a state with a thriving wind industry - dismissed the argument that supporting the wind PTC is akin to “picking winners and losers” as intellectually dishonest, pointing to long standing oil, gas, and nuclear subsidies.

Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow agreed, saying oil and gas tax credits were not part of the package under consideration “because we picked them to win a long time ago.”

As wind power supports tens of thousands of American jobs and powers homes and businesses across the country, its a wonder that the package didn’t receive unanimous support. That’s particularly true when you look at the impact wind has had in the home states of the small handful of Senators who opposed the package.

Kansas Republican Pat Roberts opposed the wind investments in spite of the fact that more than 870,000 homes in the Jayhawk state are wind-powered, and upwards of 5,000 Kansans work in the wind industry.

North Carolina’s Richard Burr seemingly voted in opposition to the 23 wind facilities currently operating in his home state, where combined production from offshore and onshore wind power is capable of exceeding the state’s energy needs seven times over.

Georgia serves as one of the headquarters for GE - the second largest manufacturer in the wind industry in the world. Yet, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson voted against the jobs in his state.

Wyoming wind powers 400,000 homes, but Senator Mike Enzi opposed wind investments. Utah’s Orrin Hatch rejected wind tax credits while hundreds of Utah residents work in wind.

Most egregious, though, is Toomey, who sponsored the assault on wind energy in spite of 4,000 Pennsylvanians working in the wind industry, 300,000 homes running on wind power, and 18% of his state’s energy pledged to come from clean energy by 2021. Had Toomey’s amendment passed, he would have undercut not just this goal, but all of the Pennsylvania jobs wind will create.

Senators from both parties stood up for wind today - and we expect them to again do so when this legislation reaches the Senate floor. The numbers don’t lie - wind is creating jobs and powering homes and businesses from coast to coast.

--Radha Adhar

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