House Democrats last night added funding for rural counties to tax policy bills as part of an effort to end an impasse with the Senate that is jeopardizing extension of expiring renewable energy tax credits. But the Senate’s top tax writer quickly called the House proposal inadequate, leaving unresolved a standoff that has delayed billions of dollars in incentives for alternative power, energy-efficient buildings and other technologies.
The House may vote as soon as today on two separate tax policy bills. The first (H.R. 7201) is a roughly $14 billion package of energy provisions that mirrors incentives the House approved last week. The second (H.R. 7202) is a much larger package of business and personal credits that now includes a reauthorization through 2009 of the Secure Rural Schools program that aids counties hurt by declining timber sales on federal lands. It also now funds the Payment In Lieu of Taxes program for 2009, and the total cost for the two rural provisions combined is estimated at $1 billion over a decade. The Senate has approved a longer extension of these programs at a cost of roughly $3.3 billion.
Last week, the House voted on the energy and non-energy extenders together as one bill. While Oregon lawmakers have pushed the House to include the county funding, this and other changes to the House plan do not appear to have appeased senators who say their year-end tax package is the only one that can win the needed 60 votes. Senate Democrats say their bill is a carefully negotiated compromise with Republicans who in many cases oppose offsets for tax incentives.
But top House Democrats continued to bristle at calls to simply accept the Senate’s bill. “At the end of the day, I think what we are finding is this whole concept of having two bodies constitute the Congress – the House and the Senate – is actually being shattered,” Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said last night.
By a 52-44 vote, the Senate failed to achieve cloture on the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049), the tax package that included extensions of the renewable production tax credit, energy efficiency incentives, and a suite of other tax credit extensions. This version included an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch without any offset.
Sen. Reid (D-Nev.) cast a procedural vote with the Republicans and Sens. Clinton, Kennedy, McCain, and Obama did not vote. Sens. Collins, Coleman, Corker, Smith, and Snowe voted with the Democrats (Collins, Coleman, and Smith are up for re-election). The voting was otherwise entirely on party lines.The timeline of the tax credits:
- FILIBUSTERED: June 17: H.R. 6049 filibustered 52-44 (Reid procedural vote with GOP)
- FILIBUSTERED: June 10: H.R. 6049 filibustered 50-44 (Reid procedural vote with GOP)
- PASSES SENATE, DIES IN HOUSE: April 10: S.Amdt. 4419 (tax credits without offsets, attached to Dodd housing bill) passes 88-8; not in House version
- PASSES HOUSE: February 27: House passes Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R. 5351; tax credits paid by closing oil loopholes) 236-182; referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
- FILIBUSTERED: February 6: S. Amdt 3983 to H.R. 5140 (tax credits without offsets, attached to stimulus package) filibustered by one vote (58-41; Reid procedural vote with GOP, McCain not voting)
- January 30: Senate Finance Committee attaches tax credits to stimulus package
- FILIBUSTERED: December 13: H.R. 6 (tax credits paid by closing oil loopholes) filibustered by one vote (59-40; Landrieu with GOP, McCain not voting). Version of H.R. 6 without tax credits or RES passes 86-8.
- PASSES HOUSE: December 6: House passes H.R. 6 with tax credits and RES 235-181.
- June 21: Senate passes S.Amdt.1502 to H.R. 6 (no tax credits or RES)
- FILIBUSTERED: June 21: S.Amdt. 1704 to S.Amdt. 1502 to to H.R. 6 (tax credits paid by closing oil loopholes) filibustered 57-36 (Landrieu with GOP, Boxer, Brownback, Coburn, Johnson, McCain, Sessions not voting)
- PASSES HOUSE: January 18: House passes H.R. 6 with tax credits and RES 264-163.
The House Ways and Means Committee will likely take up the new package next week and will bring it to the floor sometime before Memorial Day, Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) told reporters yesterday. The renewable energy package will be part of a broader multibillion dollar package of “tax extenders” for various items that are set to expire this year.
“Before the Memorial Day break, we will be bringing to the floor a comprehensive energy tax package that promotes research and development and promotes efficiency,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday. “The resources are there, the motivation is real, and I think they have reached some level of agreement with the Senate,” she added.
Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has included the renewable tax credits with a package that would also extend tax credits against the Alternative Minimum Tax, the Alternative Minimum Tax and Extenders Tax Relief Act of 2008 (S. 2886).
Neither effort provides funding mechanisms.
Yesterday morning, the Senate passed the Ensign-Cantwell clean energy package (S.Amdt 4419) by a vote of 88-8. The package is attached to Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) Foreclosure Prevention Act (S. Amdt 4387 to H.R. 3221), which was approved 84-12.
The future of the energy package now depends on whether the House is willing to consider it a “stimulus” that merits deficit spending.
The eight senators in opposition were Sens. Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bunning (R-Ky.), Byrd (D-W.Va.), Carper (D-Del.), Dodd (D-Conn.), Kyl (R-Ariz.), Sessions (R-Ala.), and Voinovich (R-Ohio). Alexander and Kyl’s alternate version of the package (S. Amdt 4429), which would have extended credits by another year and lowered the wind production credit, died by a 15-79 vote. Dodd had vigorously argued that the renewable tax package was not germane to his housing bill.
Not voting were the three presidential candidates and Sen. Liddy Dole (R-S.C.).
The Senate is meeting this afternoon to resume consideration of Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) Foreclosure Prevention Act (S. Amdt 4387 to H.R. 3221).
On the docket for consideration today is the Ensign-Cantwell amendment (S.Amdt 4419), the latest attempt by Congress to continue renewable and energy efficiency tax incentives due to expire this year. The details of the package offered by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) were first reported by Hill Heat last week.
Also up for consideration is Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) and Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) second-degree amendment (S. Amdt 4429), which would extend the tax credits from 2009 to 2011 and tweak the marine energy and trash combustion credits.
CQ reported that Sen. Dodd exploded on the floor last week in opposition to efforts to include extensions of the clean energy tax credits, saying “This is a housing bill! This isn’t a Christmas tree! It’s a housing bill! I’m going to oppose every one of these [unrelated amendments] from here on out.”
Dodd did not note the irony that the housing package is being considered as a completely unrelated replacement substitute to the House’s Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R. 3221), which would have rolled back tax breaks for oil companies in order to pay for the renewable tax incentives (and has been blocked repeatedly in the Senate, most recently in February). The Ensign-Cantwell amendment does not provide any funding mechanism for the tax credit continuation, and would violate pay-go rules. The Alexander-Kyl amendment would exacerbate the funding problem.
According to a report in CQ Tuesday, the Senate deadlock on the renewable tax-credit package may have broken, led by efforts by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.). Ensign told reporters he expects “a big announcement” on Thursday.
Details of the renewable incentives have been released, but not the full package, including revenue provisions (that is, is oil company tax breaks will be rolled back) and other elements that have been in previous iterations, such as benefits for the coal industry.A summary:
- The renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) is extended one year to 2009 and modified to include tidal power
- The solar and fuel cell investment tax credit (ITC) is extended 8 years to 2016
- The residential energy-efficient property credit is extended one year to 2009, and the $2,000 cap is removed
- Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) are extended one year to 2009, with an additional $400 million authorized
- The 10% ITC for energy-efficiency improvements to existing homes is extended one year to 2009
- The contractor tax credit for energy-efficient new homes is extended two years to 2010
- The energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction is extended one year to 2009 and increases the $1.80/sqft max to $2.25/sqft
- The energy-efficient appliance credit is extended to 2010
The full language explaining the incentives is after the jump.
The Senate’s deadlock over tax breaks for renewable energy may be ending.Description of clean energy and energy effiency incentives in the Cantwell-Ensign package:
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said negotiators have made progress, and he expects a “big announcement” Thursday.
Ensign and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have been working on a package of tax incentives, including extensions of credits for producing electricity from wind and sunlight.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., also sounded upbeat.
“There is a very good chance, compared to before we broke for the break, that we are going to get a significant extenders package paid for,” Baucus said. “We’re working with both sides to get that done.”
Energy tax packages have failed repeatedly on the Senate floor, including a $22 billion version that fell one vote short of winning approval as an amendment to a broader energy bill (PL 110-140) in December.
Republicans have complained about the revenue-raising offsets in the Democratic proposals, which would hit the oil and gas industry. It’s unclear how any Cantwell-Ensign proposal would overcome that hurdle.
Industry sources were encouraged but cautious Tuesday, and they continue to worry about losing tax benefits that are scheduled to expire Dec. 31.
“It’s all about urgency,” said Greg Wetstone of the American Wind Energy Association. “We’re looking at an industry that’s been on a phenomenal growth path that is threatened now with tremendous policy uncertainty.”
Purpose: To provide for the limited continuation of clean energy production incentives and incentives to improve energy efficiency in order to prevent a downturn in these sectors that would result from a lapse in the tax law.
Title I – Extension of Clean Energy Production Incentives
Section 101. Extension and modification of the renewable energy production tax credit (IRC Section 45). Under current law, an income tax credit is allowed for the production of electricity using renewable energy resources, like wind, biomass, geothermal, small irrigation power, landfill gas, trash combustion, and hydropower facilities. A taxpayer may generally claim a credit for 10 years, beginning on the date the qualified facility is placed in service. In order to qualify, however, facilities must be placed in service by December 31, 2008.
The bill extends the placed in service date for one year (through December 31, 2009). It also redefines small irrigation power to include marine and hydrokinetic energy, and enables the credit to help reduce the cost of renewable electricity that is ultimately sold to utility customers when the utility itself is also a part owner of the renewable facility.
Section 102. Extension and modification of the solar energy and fuel cell investment tax credit (“ITC”) (IRC Section 48). Under current law, taxpayers can claim a 30 percent business energy credit for purchases of qualified solar energy property and qualified fuel cell power plants. In addition, a 10 percent credit for purchase of qualifying stationary microturbine power plants is available. The credit for qualified fuel cell power plant property is capped at $500 per 0.5 kilowatt of capacity. Credits apply to periods after December 31, 2005 and before January 1, 2008.
The bill enables taxpayers to claim the 30 percent business credit for the purchase of fuel cell power plants and solar energy property and the 10 percent credit for stationary microturbines, through December 31, 2016. In addition, the bill repeals the $500 per .5 kilowatt of capacity cap for qualified fuel cell power plant property, and allows electric utilities to claim the ITC.
Section 103. Extension and modification of the residential energy-efficient property credit (IRC Section 25D). Under current law, taxpayers can claim a personal tax credit for the purchase of property that uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in a dwelling unit and qualified solar water heating property that is used exclusively for purposes other than heating swimming pools and hot tubs. The credit is equal to 30 percent of qualifying expenditures, with a maximum $2,000 credit for each of these systems of property. Section 25D also provides a 30 percent credit for the purchase of qualified fuel cell power plants. The credit for any fuel cell may not exceed $500 for each 0.5 kilowatt of capacity. The credit applies to property placed in service prior to January 1, 2009.
The bill extends the credit for residential solar property for one year (through December 31, 2009) and repeals the $2,000 credit cap for qualified solar electric property. The bill also allows the tax credit to offset Alternative Minimum Tax (“AMT”) liability.
Section 104. Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (“CREBs”) (IRC Section 54). Under current law, public power and consumer-owned utilities that cannot benefit from tax credits can issue Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) to help them reduce the cost of renewable energy investments. Under current law, there is a national CREB limitation of $1.2 billion in bonding authority and CREBs must be issued before December 31, 2008.
This bill authorizes an additional $400 million of CREBs that may be issued and extends the authority to issue such bonds through December 31, 2009. In addition, the bill allocates 1/3 of the additional bonds for qualifying projects of State/local/tribal governments; 1/3 for qualifying projects of public power providers; and 1/3 for qualifying projects of electric cooperatives.
Section 105. Extension of the special rule to implement FERC restructuring policy (IRC section 451(i)).
The bill extends through December 31, 2009, the present-law deferral provision that enables qualified electric utilities to recognize gain from certain transmission transactions over an 8-year period.
Title II – Extension of Incentives to Improve Energy Efficiency
Section 201. Extension and modification of the credit for energy-efficiency improvements to existing homes (IRC section 25C). Current law provides a 10 percent investment tax credit for purchases of advanced main air circulating fans, natural gas, propane, or oil furnaces or hot water boilers, windows and other qualified energy-efficient property. The credit applies to property placed in service prior to January 1, 2008.
The bill extends the credit for one year (through December 31, 2009), and specifies that certain pellet stoves are included as qualified energy-efficient building property.
Section 202. Extension of the tax credit for energy-efficient new homes (IRC section 45L). Current law provides a tax credit to an eligible contractor equal to the aggregate adjusted bases of all energy-efficiency property installed in a qualified new energy-efficient home during construction.
The bill extends the energy-efficient new homes credit for two years (through December 31, 2010), and permits the eligible contractor to claim the credit on a home built for personal use as a residence.
Section 203. Extension of the energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction (IRC section 179D). Current law allows taxpayers to deduct the cost of installing energy-efficient improvements in a commercial building. The deduction equals the cost of energy-efficient property installed during construction, with a maximum deduction of $1.80 per square foot of the building. In addition, a partial deduction of 60 cents per square foot applies to certain subsystems. The deduction applies to property placed in service prior to January 1, 2009.
The bill extends the deduction to property placed in service through December 31, 2009, increases the maximum deduction to $2.25 per square foot, and allows a partial deduction of 75 cents per square foot for building subsystems.
Section 204. Modification and extension of the energy-efficient appliance credit (IRC section 45M). Current law provides a credit for the eligible production of certain energy-efficient dishwashers, clothes washers, and refrigerators. The credit for dishwashers applies to dishwashers produced in 2006 and 2007 that meet the Energy Star standards for 2007.
The bill extends the credit to appliances produced in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and updates the qualifying efficiency standards in accordance with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Despite earlier reports that the Senate was considering inclusion of the oil-for-renewable package (H.R. 5351) in its budget reconciliation, as the budget markup begins today, the filibuster-proof strategy has been taken off the table.The National Journal reports:
While a Senate budget resolution is going to set aside $13.4 billion over five years for these renewable and efficiency credits – some of which expire this year – it merely signals that the issue is one of the priorities for Senate Democrats and does not forward debate over how to pay for those credits. . . a spokesman for Reid said he will not resurrect an energy tax debate until after lawmakers come back from the upcoming two-week Easter recess.
The Journal also reports that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has been tasked by Majority Leader Reid to attempt to find further Republican votes to establish a veto-proof majority for the package.CQ Politics points to Sen. Landrieu as objecting to using reconciliation:
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu , D-La., for example, is against using the process to pass renewable-energy tax breaks if they lead to tax hikes on oil and gas companies.
Sen. Landrieu cast a deciding vote against the oil-for-renewable tax package during the 2007 energy bill debate.
The decision by Senate leaders not to pursue a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation plan removes one option for moving billions of dollars of renewable energy and efficiency tax breaks funded by repealing incentives for oil and gas companies.
While a Senate budget resolution is going to set aside $13.4 billion over five years for these renewable and efficiency credits – some of which expire this year – it merely signals that the issue is one of the priorities for Senate Democrats and does not forward debate over how to pay for those credits.
A reconciliation bill would have sent detailed instructions to committees on how to pay for that spending and would have been immune to a filibuster.
The budget resolution also includes $3.5 billion in discretionary funding for energy above President Bush’s FY09 request, which Senate Budget Chairman Conrad touted as “a very big increase; I think the biggest increase in more than 30 years.”
Senate Democrats are trying to overcome Republican opposition to scaling back billions in incentives for oil and gas companies to pay for the popular renewable and efficiency credits. Democrats in December fell one vote short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster of a $21.8 billion proposal that reduced oil and gas incentives by about $13 billion.
A politically problematic $18 billion House-passed renewable energy tax proposal is pending, but few are optimistic that it could become law given a White House veto threat. This is leading to some brainstorming on other means of getting these credits extended quickly.
Majority Leader Reid has tasked Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., with helping find another Republican vote or two. Cantwell, who pushed for a one-year $5.5 billion renewable and efficiency tax package as part of a failed Finance Committee economic stimulus plan, said a similar smaller package should be considered. “There’s nothing preventing us from looking at the bigger package – see what the president does – but still work toward a smaller package too,” she said.
Cantwell said “the challenge is to still try to save investment in ‘08,” and extend the tax incentives within the next month or so.
This is the basic message of a broad coalition of businesses, renewable energy groups, environmentalists, labor unions and others who are taking advantage of an international renewable energy conference in Washington this week to do some cohesive lobbying to extend these credits by the end of the month.
But a spokesman for Reid said he will not resurrect an energy tax debate until after lawmakers come back from the upcoming two-week Easter recess.
Several industry officials say they are not requesting that Congress follow a particular strategy for quickly extending the renewable and efficiency incentives.
“We basically said Congress should figure this out,” said Dan Reicher, former assistant Energy secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy under President Clinton and now director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google.org.
“We have tried to stick to a pretty simple approach – extend the credits quickly and extend them for a long period of time.”
But the political problems associated with repealing the billions in oil and gas incentives means the solution to getting an extension through fast is potentially undefined.
“The answer is, you need some new and original thinking here,” said Marchant Wentworth, legislative representative for the Clean Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
While Cantwell has talked about doing a smaller package to gain support and possibly avoid a veto threat, Wentworth cautioned that there does not appear to be a magic number to achieve that.
“The question we all face is, are there new votes that you would get? These are leadership-driven; it’s unclear to me that lowering the incentives gets you anything,” he said.
In the meantime, a wide variety of groups and companies – including retail giant Wal-Mart, the Real Estate Roundtable, Dow Chemical and DuPont – are targeting congressional leaders and several Senate Republicans to vote for extending the credits regardless of whether it affects oil and gas company incentives.
Among Republicans being targeted are Sens. John Ensign of Nevada, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Richard Lugar of Indiana.
Lugar and Murkowski voted against the filibuster in December. Renewable energy groups might also get a rare chance to lobby Bush personally when he speaks today at the 2008 Washington International Renewable Energy Conference.
Senate Democrats are eyeing a filibuster-proof budget bill as a vehicle for energy tax provisions that have narrowly failed to win the 60 votes needed to cut off debate, several lawmakers said yesterday.
Energy taxes are a “candidate to be considered in [budget] reconciliation,” Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told reporters. “I think we have to look at things that reduce our dependence on energy.”
The oil-for-renewables package, which faces the threat of a Bush veto, received resounding support from a broad coalition of industry, investors, and environmental organizations in a press conference today on the first day of the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference. President Bush is scheduled to offer the keynote address to the convention tomorrow.
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the House Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Caucus invite you to a briefing addressing the impacts of the President’s FY 2009 budget on energy efficiency and renewable energy (EE/RE) programs, including impacts upon states and low-income consumers. In addition, the urgent need to extend Federal tax incentives for EE/RE will be discussed. Energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies are critical elements of a national energy policy that will meet the nation’s goals of reducing energy imports, moderating energy prices, and improving the economy, national security, the environment and public health.Panel
- Deborah Estes, Majority Counsel, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
- Scott Sklar, President, The Stella Group; Chair, Sustainable Energy Coalition Steering Committee
- Bill Prindle, Deputy Director, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
- Jeff Genzer, General Counsel, National Association of State Energy Officials; Duncan Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke
The President’s FY 2009 budget request for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) EE/RE programs is $1.26 billion—essentially flat with the Administration’s FY 2008 budget request and 27 percent below FY 2008 appropriations. Given the volume of voices and concerns about energy security, the huge bills residential and business consumers face, loss of economic competitiveness, environmental degradation, and rising greenhouse gas emissions, the funding priorities reflected in the President’s FY 09 budget appear in conflict with his goals of expanding renewable energy development and making the economy more energy efficient. With dramatically rising energy prices for homes, businesses and drivers, states are concerned by the proposed zeroing out of the Weatherization Assistance Program Grants.
In signing the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA, P.L. 110-140) on December 19, 2007, President Bush said EISA makes “a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil, confronting global climate change, expanding the production of renewable fuels and giving future generations of our country a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure.” However, not included in EISA were a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) and an extension of renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives. A new economic study by Navigant Consulting finds that over 116,000 US jobs and nearly $19 billion in U.S. investment could be lost in just one year if renewable energy tax credits are not renewed by Congress. See EESI’s FY 2009 DOE Budget Analysis regarding requested funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact Fred Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-662-1892.
On Monday Citi Group, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase announced the establishment of an “enhanced diligence” framework for judging proposed financings of certain new fossil fuel generation.
The framework, according to the joint press release, sets principles for energy efficiency (including “regulatory and legislative changes that increase efficiency in electricity consumption”), renewable energy and low-carbon distributed energy technologies, and assessing the “financial, regulatory and certain environmental liability risks” of CO2-emitting fossil fuel power generation. The group intends to “encourage regulatory and legislative changes that facilitate carbon capture and storage (CCS) to further reduce CO2 emissions from the electric sector.”
The group, which as the Rainforest Action Network’s Understory blog notes does not include major investor Bank of America, consulted the power companies American Electric Power, CMS Energy, DTE Energy, NRG Energy, PSEG, Sempra and Southern Company and the environmental organizations Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council.