Senators Work to Strengthen American Clean Energy And Security Act

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 25 Aug 2009 11:20:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Kerry: Yes to Climate ActionEven as their colleagues place roadblocks on energy reform, several members of the U.S. Senate are attempting to strengthen the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the green economy legislation passed by the House of Representatives this June. As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) take the lead to write the Senate draft, many of their fellow senators have proposed specific policy improvements:

  • EMISSIONS LIMITS: Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are calling for the legislation to strengthen its 2020 target for greenhouse pollution reductions to 20 percent below 2005 levels, instead of the current 17 percent target. “I like the House bill, don’t get me wrong,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). “But I think we can do better.” Lautenberg told reporters: “That’s the objective, as far as I’m concerned, because the glide path has to be established that enables us to get to 80 percent in 2050. You can’t get there unless you start aggressively pushing.”
  • GREEN TRANSPORTATION: Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) is working to strengthen the bill’s funding for green transportation, pushing language that would “devote a guaranteed share of revenues from carbon regulation to transit, bike paths, and other green modes of transport.” The Clean, Low-Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act (S. 575 / H.R. 1329) would auction ten percent of carbon market allowances for clean transit improvement. Senators Arlen Specter (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have co-sponsored the legislation.
  • COAL POLLUTION: Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) is working with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to add language to “regulate power plant emissions of mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.”
  • CARBON MARKET REGULATION: Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have introduced legislation to “prevent Enron-like fraud, manipulation and excessive speculation” in the carbon market that the ACES Act would establish. Boxer has told reporters she intends to include the Feinstein-Snowe language in her legislation.
  • RENEWABLE STANDARD: In February, Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced legislation (S. 433) to set a federal standard of 25% renewable electricity by 2025, much stronger than the House bill. “The bill’s not perfect, but it is a beginning,” Mark Udall recently told reporters. “The Senate now has to work its bill, and there are a number of elements we could put in the Senate bill that would improve the House bill including passing a [stronger] renewable electricity standard for the nation.” Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have cosponsored the legislation.
  • GREEN MANUFACTURING JOBS: Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) Act creates a “$30 billion Manufacturing Revolving Loan Fund to help small and medium-sized manufacturers finance retooling, shift design, and improve energy efficiency.” The IMPACT Act has been added to the Senate legislation. Ten Democratic senators, led by Sens. Brown and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), have urged President Obama to ensure the legislation includes “strong provisions to ensure the strength and viability of domestic manufacturing,” including a “border adjustment mechanism” if “other major carbon emitting countries fail to commit to an international agreement requiring commensurate action on climate change.” Brown and Stabenow are supported by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Robert Casey (D-PA), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Robert Byrd (D-VW), and Al Franken (D-MN).

A number of senators have committed to passing strong climate and clean energy legislation, including Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who is “optimistic we can turn energy potential into reality and help create new job opportunities at home by producing more clean energy in the United States.” After telling a global warming skeptic that “climate change is very real,” Stabenow was eviscerated by the right wing. Both Brown and Specter have committed to voting against a Republican filibuster of climate legislation—a key move for President Obama’s progressive energy agenda.

After Boxer introduces her draft of the legislation in the beginning of September, the bill must pass out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has a strong Democratic majority with many liberal Democrats. “The move on the Senate floor will be rightward,” Sen. Whitehouse noted. “And therefore, we’ve got to do our job to keep as many possibilities open for the floor as possible.”

Other senators have committed to passing strong climate and clean energy legislation, including Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who is “optimistic we can turn energy potential into reality and help create new job opportunities at home by producing more clean energy in the United States.” Both Brown and Specter have committed to voting against a Republican filibuster of climate legislation—a key move for President Obama’s progressive energy agenda.

After Boxer introduces her draft of the legislation in the beginning of September, the bill must pass out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has a strong Democratic majority with many liberal Democrats. “The move on the Senate floor will be rightward,” Sen. Whitehouse noted. “And therefore, we’ve got to do our job to keep as many possibilities open for the floor as possible.”

Weakening Amendments Fail as American Clean Energy and Security Act Moves Through Markup 1

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 20 May 2009 18:05:00 GMT

The Wonk Room’s guest blogger is Daniel J. Weiss, a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

H.R. 2454The second day of markup on the Waxman/Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) saw a series of amendments from opponents designed to weaken the green economy bill fail in a series of votes. The debate on amendments will continue today and the sessions appear on track to get the bill voted out of committee before this weekend. As the committee discusses the landmark legislation, the Center for American Progress released an analysis of new numbers from the Union of Concerned Scientists showing that households and businesses will save money on their electricity and natural gas bills if Congress passes a Renewable Energy Standard, currently included in ACES.

The renewable energy standard (RES), a key part of the Waxman/Markey bill, requires that 15% of electricity comes from wind, sun, or other renewable sources. In yesterday’s session, bill opponents continued to cite a variety of debunked numbers on increased costs to consumers, but this analysis shows that Americans will save money with the RES included in the bill. States across the country have already seen similar savings as they have implemented RES at the state level. A review by CAP found that half the states have amended their RES after implementation to make it stronger, suggesting its been a successful policy in the states.

Back in the committee, Republican opponents read from a script described by Politico as making “counterintuitive” arguments. Their new approach was based on a strategy memo urging opponents to attack the responsible business leaders who support clean energy legislation. The memo accuses businesses of being “guilty of manipulating national climate policy to increase profits on the backs of consumers.” The tone-deaf message of the memo won’t change the fact that businesses see ACES as a chance to create jobs and begin to chart a course out of the current recession. And the script urged:
The bottom line message is this: Democrats are protecting big business; Republicans are protecting consumers.

This ignores the fact that Republicans opposed every effort in 2008 to lower gasoline prices and rein in oil companies.

Amendments that passed yesterday included a provision introduced by Reps. Dingell and Inslee for a Clean Energy Deployment Administration within the Energy Department. This “green bank” would serve to promote clean energy projects in the U.S. through affordable financing for clean energy technologies. A similar amendment from Rep. Eshoo for a Clean Technology grant program also passed. Another major amendment passed was Rep. Betty Sutton’s (D-MI) “cash for clunkers” automotive upgrade program.

NWF Opposes "All Of The Above" Bill; LCV Opposes Even More Industry-Friendly Motion To Recommit

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 16 Sep 2008 20:00:00 GMT

As votes near this evening on the “all of the above” Democratic energy package (H.R. 6899), National Wildlife Federation president Larry Schweiger sent a letter to Congress opposing the bill because it lifts the oil shale moratorium. He writes:
The public, including National Wildlife Federation’s four million members and supporters, wants Congress to take the urgent and necessary steps that will give consumers better energy choices, cut oil dependency and cut global warming pollution. While we favor many provisions in the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Taxpayer Protection Act (H.R. 6899), especially when compared to the expected motion to recommit, we oppose the bill because of its provision allowing commercial oil shale leasing. As a result of this provision, the bill fails to address the fundamental challenge of avoiding significant new increases in global warming pollution and protecting important wildlife habitat on our public lands.
League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski issued the following statement opposing the Republican motion to recommit:
Drilling is no longer the issue – unfortunately, both H.R. 6899 and the motion to recommit include drilling. The issue today is whether or not each Member of Congress will stand up for the American people or stand with the oil industry lobbyists.

All summer, Republicans have called for an ‘All of the Above’ plan on energy. Now, presented with a compromise that gives them everything they’ve asked for, the Republican leadership refuses to support it. Instead, they offer a motion to recommit, which will remove every provision from the bill that Big Oil doesn’t like: provisions that reduce tax breaks to Big Oil and extend them to renewable energy companies, increase efficiency, and create the first national renewable energy standard.

How each member votes will highlight the real differences between those in Congress who support clean energy as central to America’s energy future, and those who remain tied to big oil and want to keep us stuck in the past. LCV opposes the motion to recommit and calls on the Members of Congress who support it to stop working for the oil companies and start working for the American people.

The Comprehensive American Energy and Security, Consumer Protection Act 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 16 Sep 2008 03:16:00 GMT

Reps. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), Gene Green (D-Texas), George Miller (D-Calif.), and John Dingell (D-Mich.) have unveiled the House Democratic “all of the above” energy package, The Comprehensive American Energy and Security, Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 6899), which lifts the moratorium on offshore drilling and calls for massive investments in natural gas, oil, and coal, as well ethics reform for the MMS, support for public transit, and a suite of energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives and standards paid for by eliminating some oil subsidies.

Many elements are drawn from previous House bills—H.R. 5351, H.R. 3221, H.R. 6, H.R. 4520, H.R. 6578, H.R. 6078, H.R. 6052, H.R. 6515.

RENEWABLE ENERGY FUTURE, CREATING AMERICAN JOBS

  • Renewable Energy and Efficiency Tax Incentives. Extends and expands tax incentives for renewable energy, including incentives for plug-in vehicles, and retains and creates hundreds of thousands of American jobs. It expands and extends tax incentives for renewable electricity, (such as solar and wind) and fuel from America’s heartland, as well as for plug-in hybrid cars, and energy efficient homes, buildings, and appliances. Investments in renewable energy create three to five times as many jobs as investments in fossil-fuel energy. (H.R. 5351)
  • Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), Electricity from Clean Renewable Sources. Requires utility companies to generate 15 percent of electricity from renewable sources – such as wind power, biomass, wave, tidal, geothermal and solar – by 2020. A 15 percent Renewable Electricity Standard will reduce global warming emissions and lower energy prices, saving consumers $13-18 billion cumulatively by 2020. It permits utilities to meet up to 4 percent of their target through energy efficiency. (H.R. 3221)
  • Investing in Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Home Heating Assistance (LIHEAP), Paid for by Making Oil Companies Pay their Fair Share for Drilling on Public Lands (98/99 leases). Creates a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve to invest in clean, renewable energy resources and alternative fuels, promote new energy technologies, develop greater efficiency and improve energy conservation. It will also fund home heating assistance, weatherization, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and carbon capture and sequestration. (H.R.6)

LOWERS COSTS TO CONSUMERS & PROTECTS TAXPAYERS

  • Royalty Reform: Making Oil Companies Pay Their Fair Share for Drilling on Public Lands. Ensures that oil companies pay their fair share of royalties on flawed leases granted in 1998 and 1999. Oil companies holding 70 percent of these leases issued in the Gulf of Mexico from 1998 and 1999 pay no royalties on this oil, costing American taxpayers about $15 billion.
  • Repeal of Tax Subsidies. Repeals a giveaway in the 2004 international tax bill (H.R. 4520) for the Big Five oil companies. (Small, independent oil and gas companies would continue to benefit from the deduction at the current rate.) It also closes a foreign tax loophole for large oil companies. These will pay for critical investment in American renewable energy. (H.R. 5351)
  • Releasing Oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Temporarily releases nearly 10 percent of the oil from the government’s stockpile (known as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)), and replaces it later with heavier, cheaper crude oil. Past releases have brought down prices by as much as 33 percent. (H.R. 6578)
  • Mineral Management Service Ethics Reform. Take aggressive steps to crack down on the extreme misconduct at the Mineral Management Service—the agency charged with collecting royalties from oil and gas companies, which is one of the largest sources of revenue for the federal government. The Interior Department’s Inspector General just reported on a range of illegal and unethical behaviors plaguing the MMS, including accepting gifts, meals, and alcohol from industry representatives; instances of illegal drug use among employees; sexual relationships between MMS employees and representatives of oil and gas companies; and violations of federal procurement regulations, which clearly put taxpayer dollars at risk, such as steering lucrative contracts to former colleagues in the private sector.

GREATER ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND CONSERVATION

  • Strengthen Energy Efficiency in Buildings to Bring Down Costs. Could save consumers as much as $210 billion in energy costs through 2030 by updating energy codes for new buildings. New residential and commercial buildings will have to realize a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2010, and 50 percent by 2020. The building sector alone accounts for approximately 48% of all energy consumed in the United States and of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. (H.R. 3221)
  • Incentives for Energy Efficient Homes. Provides incentives to lenders and financial institutions, including the Federal Housing Administration, to provide lower interest loans to consumers who build, buy or remodel their homes to improve their energy efficiency. The average American consumer spends 9.7% of their annual income on energy, while low-income households spend more than 16%. (H.R. 6078, Rep. Perlmutter)
  • Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act. Reduces transit fares for commuter rail and buses and expands service. The average commuter can save up to $8,000 a year riding public transit, based on today’s gas prices. (H.R. 6052)

EXPANDING DOMESTIC OIL AND GAS SUPPLY

  • Responsible Compromise on Drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. Because of recent actions by President Bush, the 27 year bipartisan legislative moratorium banning offshore drilling, keeping oil spills and polluters off America’s coastlines, will end on September 30th, allowing drilling to take place as close as 3 miles offshore.
    • The compromise would permit leasing between 50 and 100 miles offshore if a State ‘opts-in’ to allow leasing off its coastline by enacting state law.
    • Environmental Protections: National marine monuments and national marine sanctuaries are permanently withdrawn from oil and gas leasing. All leasing activities must protect the coastal, marine and human environment of the State coastal zones and OCS. DOD authority to designate national defense areas remains in force and leasing must also take place in accordance with a Memorandum of Agreement between the Defense and Interior Departments.
    • The compromise adheres to the 2006 law protecting parts of the eastern Gulf of Mexico from drilling until 2022.
    • The remaining Outer Continental Shelf beyond 100 miles would be open to oil and gas leasing.
  • Require Oil Companies to use the 68 Million Acres of Federal Lands They Already Control. Strengthens requirements that oil companies produce oil on federal lands leased for drilling during the initial term of their lease. (DRILL Act, H.R. 6515).
  • Increase Domestic Oil Production in Alaska. Mandates annual lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, which has more oil than the Arctic Wildlife Refuge; also the oil can be brought to market sooner. Also requires the Bush Administration to facilitate completion of the oil pipeline infrastructure into the Reserve and the construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline, which could create up to 100,000 jobs, while banning export of Alaskan oil outside the U.S. (DRILL Act, H.R. 6515)
  • Promote Natural Gas, E-85 Infrastructure. Includes incentives and financing mechanisms for installing natural gas pumps in service stations and homes and requires service stations owned by Big Oil to install at least one “alternative fuel pump”such as natural gas or E-85. Natural gas costs 40 percent less than gasoline, is 33 percent cleaner and is produced in North America.
  • Carbon Capture & Sequestration. Advances the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to come up with a cleaner way to use coal by using funds from the 1998/99 royalty reform to invest in this critical technology.

House Energy Bill On Tap

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:16:00 GMT

According to E&E News, Democratic leadership plans to unveil an “all of the above” energy package today or tomorrow which likely has the following components:
  • Expansion of OCS leasing to include areas off the coasts of the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia, and possibly the eastern Gulf of Mexico as well. A bipartisan Senate plan known informally as the “Gang of 10” proposal would allow drilling in these regions no closer than 50 miles from shore. But House lawmakers and aides did not say how close to shore their plan would allow drilling.
  • New revenues from oil companies. A Democratic leadership aide said the bill may include provisions to ensure payment of royalties from late-1990s deepwater Gulf of Mexico leases that currently allow royalty waivers regardless of energy prices. The absence of price-based limits on these royalty waivers could cost the Treasury as much as $14.7 billion over 25 years, according to the Government Accountability Office. The bill may also include the repeal of the Section 199 tax deduction for major oil companies. This plan, past versions of which have also frozen the deduction at 6 percent for non-majors, raises roughly $13.6 billion over a decade, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated in June.
  • A so-called renewable electricity standard that requires utilities to supply escalating amounts of power from sources like wind and geothermal power. The House Democrats plan to include a standard of 15 percent by 2020, an aide said, akin to a measure the House approved last year that did not survive negotiations with the Senate. The plan allows roughly a fourth of the standard to be met with efficiency measures.
  • Extension of renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits.
E&E also reports that Pelosi indicated “the energy bill might include support for automakers’ retooling to make more efficient vehicles.”
This could also be part of an economic stimulus package being prepared or the continuing resolution to extend government spending beyond the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, she said.

House Democrats Develop "All of the Above" Energy Agenda in Response to Republican Attacks

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 03 Sep 2008 22:08:00 GMT

Alex Kaplun reports for E&E News:
Top House Democrats say that shortly after Congress reconvenes, they will put on the floor a piece of legislation that will include an expansion of offshore drilling but also a renewable electricity mandate, energy-efficiency standards for buildings and oil industry tax provisions.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) described the plan as “a political reverse takedown on the Republicans,” by calling the GOP bluff on their calls for an “All of the Above” energy agenda. David Sandalow, an adviser to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), told E&E News: “We’ll see whether the proponents of all of the above can take yes for an answer.”

Renewable electricity standards, building efficiency standards, and oil tax provisions have repeatedly passed the House over Republican opposition, but have died in Republican filibusters in the Senate.

The legislative plan will represent a compromise from the agendas of the various national lobbying campaigns by outside organizations:
  • Al Gore’s We Campaign’s call for a 100% renewable electricity standard by 2018;
  • Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions For Winning the Future’s call for expanded drilling;
  • T. Boone Pickens’ call for new grid development, tax incentives for wind and solar, and subsidies for natural gas;
  • The coal industry’s American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity’s call for increased advanced coal technology subsidies.

ACCCE and Pickens each have had a significant presence at the national conventions.

On a lighter note, as Open Left’s Matt Stoller found, the people employed by ACCCE to spread the “clean coal” message in Denver weren’t necessarily all up to speed.

President Signs Energy Bill; NYT Praises Dingell, Slams Landrieu

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 19 Dec 2007 20:39:00 GMT

From the New York Times Editorial blog:
The Energy Bill: A Hero and a Villain

President Bush has just signed into law an energy bill that could have been even better but still remains an impressive achievement. The long struggle to produce that bill yielded the usual quotient of heroes and villains, but two deserve special mention:

John Dingell, who could have been a villain but chose to be a hero; and Mary Landrieu, who could have been a hero but chose to be a villain.

Mr. Dingell was a most unlikely hero. A Michigan Democrat and a reliable defender of the automobile industry, he had long resisted efforts to mandate new fuel efficiency standards, which had not been updated for more than 30 years.

But there has always been a softer, “greener” side to this crusty octogenarian that people often overlook. An architect of the original Clean Water Act of 1972, he cares a lot about wetlands preservation, endangered species and other environmental causes. He is also a fairly recent convert to the climate change issue, describing the global warming threat with phrases like “Hannibal is at the gates.”

So when Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, made a personal pledge to upgrade fuel efficiency standards, Mr. Dingell agreed, in exchange for one or two modest concessions, to get out of the way. He did more than that. When environmentalists complained that the Senate’s mandate for a huge increase in ethanol could threaten forests, wetlands and conservation areas, Mr. Dingell made sure the final bill contained the necessary safeguards. He also insisted on a provision requiring that ethanol from corn or any other source produce a net benefit in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Ms. Landrieu was an altogether different story. The Louisiana Democrat broke ranks with her Democratic colleagues and gave President Bush and the Republican leadership the one-vote margin they needed to strike a key provision that would have rescinded about $12 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry and shifted the money to research and development of cleaner sources of energy.

The White House argued that these tax breaks were necessary to insure the oil industry’s economic health and to protect consumers at the pump. Given industry’s $100 billion-per-year profits, these arguments were absurd on their face, but Ms. Landrieu promoted both of them and added one of her own: The energy bill was “one-sided policymaking” that left “Louisiana footing the bill.”

Never mind that the rest of the country is footing the bill for the repair and restoration of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That is a just and worthy cause and one that the nation is willing to help pay for. But isn’t reducing oil dependency and global warming emissions by rewarding traditional fossil fuels a bit less, and rewarding newer, cleaner fuels a bit more, also a just and worthy cause? One that Louisiana could help pay for? That is something Ms. Landrieu might ask herself the next time she puts her state’s interest ahead of the nation’s.

White House-Approved Energy Bill Passes Senate 86-8 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 14 Dec 2007 01:35:00 GMT

After Sen. Reid dropped the oil-for-renewable tax package following a failed cloture vote on the energy bill this morning, Republicans removed the filibuster threat and President Bush dropped his veto threat, having achieved a bill that met essentially all of the White House conditions.

This evening, the senatorial candidates having left the city, the Senate moved directly to a vote (ending debate by unanimous consent) on the final revision of the energy bill, which retains strengthened CAFE, appliance, and building standards, and a strong biofuels mandate with White House-approved tax adjustments for revenue.

The bill passed 86-8, Sen. Stabenow (D-Mich.) joining seven Republicans (Wyoming, Oklahoma, Hatch, DeMint, and Kyl) in opposition.

Energy Bill Filibustered By One Vote: Reid To Drop Oil-for-Renewable Tax Package 4

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 13 Dec 2007 15:00:00 GMT

By a roll call vote of 59-40, Senate Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster threatened by Republicans of the compromise energy legislation which retained the tax package under veto threat but not the House-approved renewable energy standard. Sen. Reid plans to reintroduce a version of the energy bill which contains the CAFE and biofuels provisions later today.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) was the only Democrat to vote with the Republicans. Coleman, Collins, Grassley, Hatch, Lugar, Murkowski, Smith, Snowe, and Thune voted with the Democrats. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), on the campaign trail, was the one senator not voting.

Reid Announces New Energy Bill Compromise, Drops RES

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 12 Dec 2007 19:53:00 GMT

To gain the 60 votes a cloture vote on the energy bill (H.R. 6) needs for success, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has dropped the Renewable Energy Standard provision from the package, which still contains the 35 MPG by 2020 CAFE standard, a 36 billion gallon by 2022 biofuels mandate, appliance and building efficiency standards, and a broad tax/green jobs package. The White House has threatened to veto the bill for the CAFE standards and tax package. Reid held a cloture vote on the House version last week, which failed by a vote of 53-42. The new cloture vote is scheduled for Thursday.

The tax package was reworked by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee.

The reworked tax package, which remains at about $21 billion paid for mostly by closing loopholes that favor oil and gas companies, changes the terms of the renewable production tax credit extension. The extension is limited to two years but the cap on credit an individual project can receive is dropped.

Other modifications include a new category of tax exempt bonds for electric transmission facilities, a $2500 tax credit for plug-in hybrid conversion kits, and the removal of an incentive for the construction of natural gas distribution infrastructure. Enforcement of prevailing-wage restrictions under Davis-Bacon was also dropped.

The full description of the tax package (“The Clean Renewable Energy and Conservation Tax Act of 2007”) is below.

The Clean Renewable Energy and Conservation Tax Act of 2007

December 12, 2007

I. CLEAN RENEWABLE ENERGY INCENTIVES

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Extension and modification of Section 45. The proposal extends the placed-in-service date for two years (through December 31, 2010) for qualifying facilities: wind, closed-loop biomass; open-loop biomass; geothermal; small irrigation hydro; landfill gas; and trash combustion facilities. Also modifies the market value test for refined coal while increasing its emissions requirements for sulfur dioxide and mercury. The proposal also adds tidal energy as a qualifying resource and eliminates the third party sale rule for closed and open-loop biomass facilities. The proposal is estimated to cost $6.22 billion over ten years.

Long-term extension and modification of solar energy and fuel cell investment tax credit. The bill extends the 30% investment tax credit for solar energy property and qualified fuel cell property and the 10% investment tax credit for microturbines for eight years (through the end of 2016). It also increases the $500 per half kilowatt of capacity cap for qualified fuel cells to $1,500 per half kilowatt of capacity. The bill removes an existing limitation that prevents public utilities from claiming the investment tax credit. The bill would also provide a new 10% investment tax credit for combined heat and power systems. The bill also allows these credits to be used to offset alternative minimum tax (AMT). This proposal is estimated to cost $602 million over 10 years.

Long-term extension and modification of the residential energy-efficient property credit. The bill would extend the credit for residential solar property for six years (through the end of 2014). The bill would also increase the annual credit cap (currently capped at $2,000) to $4,000. The bill would include residential small wind equipment as property qualifying for this credit. The bill also allows the credit to be used to offset alternative minimum tax (AMT). This proposal is estimated to cost approximately $317 million over ten years.

Sales of electric transmission property. The bill extends the present-law deferral of gain on sales of transmission property by vertically integrated electric utilities to FERC-approved independent transmission companies. Rather than recognizing the full amount of gain in the year of sale, this provision allows gain on such sales to be recognized ratably over an 8-year period. The rule applies to sales before January 1, 2010. This proposal is revenue neutral over 10 years.

Transmission Bonds. The bill creates a new category of tax exempt bonds for electric transmission facilities. The bonds fall within the regular state private activity bond cap limitations. This proposal is estimated to cost $96 million over 10 years. New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (“CREBs”). The bill authorizes $2 billion of new clean renewable energy bonds to finance facilities that generate electricity from the following resources: wind; closed-loop biomass; open-loop biomass; geothermal; small irrigation; hydropower; landfill gas; marine renewable; and trash combustion facilities. This $2 billion authorization will be subdivided into thirds: 1/3 will be available 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. This proposal is estimated to cost $550 million over 10 years.

CARBON MITIGATION AND COAL

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) demonstration projects. The bill would provide $2 billion of tax credits for the creation of advanced coal electricity projects and certain coal gasification projects that demonstrate the greatest potential for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. Of these $2 billion of incentives, $1.5 billion would be awarded to advanced coal electricity projects and $500 million would be awarded to certain coal gasification projects. These tax credits would be awarded by Treasury through an application process, with the applicants that demonstrate the greatest carbon capture and sequestration percentage of total CO2 emissions receiving the highest priority. Applications will not be considered unless applicants can demonstrate that either their advanced coal electricity project would capture and sequester at least 65% of the facility’s carbon dioxide emissions or that their coal gasification project would capture and sequester at least 75% of the facility’s carbon dioxide emissions. Once these credits are awarded, recipients that fail to meet these minimum levels of carbon capture and sequestration would forfeit their tax credits. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.794 billion over 10 years.

Accelerated depreciation for CO2 pipelines. In order to facilitate the creation of infrastructure to transport captured CO2 to suitable sequestration sites, the bill would allow taxpayers to write-off the cost of CO2 pipelines that are installed after the date of enactment and before January 1, 2011 using accelerated depreciation over a seven-year period (as opposed to the 15-year period allowed under current law). This proposal is estimated to cost $50 million over 10 years.

Solvency for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. The bill would enact the President’s proposal to bring the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund out of debt. Under current law, an excise tax is imposed on coal at a rate of $1.10 per ton for coal from underground mines and $0.55 per ton for coal from surface mines (aggregate tax per ton capped at 4.4 percent of the amount sold by the producer). Receipts from this tax are deposited in the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which is used to pay compensation, medical and survivor benefits to eligible miners and their survivors and to cover costs of program administration. The Trust Fund is permitted to borrow from the general fund any amounts necessary to make authorized expenditures if excise tax receipts do not provide sufficient funding. Reduced rates of excise tax apply after the earlier of December 31, 2013 or the date on which the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund has repaid, with interest, all amounts borrowed from the general fund of the Treasury. The President’s Budget proposes that the current excise tax rate should continue to apply beyond 2013 until all amounts borrowed from the general fund of the Treasury have been repaid with interest. After repayment, the reduced excise tax rates of $0.50 per ton for coal from underground mines and $0.25 per ton for coal from surface mines would apply (aggregate tax per ton capped at 2 percent of the amount sold by the producer). The bill would enact the President’s proposal (with a reduced rate after 2017). This proposal is estimated to raise $966 million over 10 years.

Refund of certain coal excise taxes unconstitutionally collected from exporters. The Courts have determined that the Export Clause of the U.S. Constitution applies to the excise tax on exported coal and, therefore, such taxes are subject to a claim for refund. The bill would create a new procedure under which certain coal producers and exporters may claim a refund of these excise taxes that were imposed on coal exported from the United States. Under this procedure, coal producers or exporters that exported coal during the period beginning on or after October 1, 1990 and ending on or before the date of enactment of the bill, may obtain a refund (plus interest) from the Treasury of excise taxes paid on such exported coal and any interest accrued from the date of overpayment. This proposal is estimated to cost $120 million over 10 years.

Carbon audit of the tax code. The bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury to request that the National Academy of Sciences undertake a comprehensive review of the tax code to identify the types of specific tax provisions that have the largest effects on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and to estimate the magnitude of those effects. This proposal has no revenue effect.

II. TRANSPORTATION AND DOMESTIC FUEL SECURITY

BIOFUELS

Cellulosic alcohol production credit. The bill creates a new production tax credit for cellulosic alcohol produced for use as a fuel. The amount of this credit is equal to the difference between $1.01 per gallon and the per gallon ethanol blender tax credit (currently 51 cents per gallon). For example, this credit would be $1.01 per gallon if the ethanol blender credit were to expire and would be 55 cents per gallon if the ethanol blender credit were reduced to 46 cents under a different provision in this bill. The credit may only be claimed on up to 60 million gallons per taxpayer. This credit would be available through the end of 2013. This proposal is estimated to cost $482 million over 10 years.

Expansion of allowance for property to produce cellulosic alcohol. Under current law, taxpayers are allowed to immediately write off 50% of the cost of facilities that produce cellulosic ethanol if such facilities are placed in service before January 1, 2013. Consistent with other provisions in the bill that seek to be technology neutral, the bill would allow this write off to be available for the production of other cellulosic alcohols in addition to cellulosic ethanol. This proposal is estimated to cost $1 million over 10 years.

Coordination of ethanol blender credit with the renewable fuels standard (RFS). The bill ensures that the ethanol blender credit takes into account the additional incentive for the use of ethanol that the renewable fuel standard (RFS) provides. Upon the production or importation of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol in any calendar year, the 51 cent ethanol credit will be reduced to 46 cents per gallon. This proposal is estimated to raise $854 million over 10 years.

Extension of biodiesel production tax credit; extension and modification of renewable diesel tax credit. The bill extends for two years (through December 31, 2010) the $1.00 and 50 cent per gallon production tax credits for biodiesel and the small biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon. The bill also extends for two years (through December 31, 2010) the $1.00 per gallon production tax credit for diesel fuel created from biomass. The bill eliminates the requirement that the diesel fuel must be produced using a thermal depolymerization process. As a result, the credit will be available for any diesel fuel created from biomass without regard to the process used so long as the fuel is usable as a fuel in vehicles [or as aviation jet fuel]. The bill also clarifies that the $1 per gallon production credit for renewable diesel is limited to diesel fuel that is produced solely from biomass. Diesel fuel that is created by co-processing biomass with other feedstocks (e.g., petroleum) will be eligible for the 50 cent per gallon tax credit for alternative fuels. Biodiesel that is imported and sold for export will not be eligible for the credit beginning the date of enactment. The proposal is estimated to cost $216 million over 10 years.

Refinery expensing. The proposal extends for two years (through January 1, 2013) the placed-in-service requirement and the building construction contract requirement through 2009. The proposal provides 50% bonus depreciation for costs incurred for a new refinery or an existing refinery to increase total capacity by 5% or process nonconventional feedstocks at a rate equal or greater to 25% of the total throughput of the refinery. The proposal is estimated to cost $922 billion over 10 years.

Comprehensive study of biofuels. The bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to request that the National Academy of Sciences produce an analysis of current scientific findings relating to the future production of biofuels and the domestic effects of a dramatic increase in the production of biofuels. This proposal has no revenue effect.

ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY MOTOR VEHICLES

Plug-in electric drive vehicle credit. The bill establishes a new credit for each qualified plug-in electric drive vehicle placed in service during each taxable year by a taxpayer. The base amount of the credit is $3,000. If the qualified vehicle draws propulsion from a battery with at least 5 kilowatt hours of capacity, the credit amount is increased by $200, plus another $200 for each kilowatt hour of battery capacity in excess of 5 kilowatt hours up to 15 kilowatt hours. Taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records 60,000 sales. The credit is reduced in following calendar quarters. The credit is available against the alternative minimum tax (AMT). This proposal is estimated to cost $1.02 billion over 10 years.

Hybrid conversion kits. The proposal creates a 20% investment tax credit, capped at $2,500, for the cost of purchasing and installing a plug-in traction battery module used to convert a hybrid vehicle to a plug-in hybrid vehicle. The proposal expires December 31, 2010. The score for this proposal is incorporated in the score of the plug-in vehicle credit, above.

Incentives for idling reduction units and advanced insulation for heavy trucks. The bill provides an exemption from the heavy vehicle excise tax for the cost of idling reduction units, such as auxiliary power units (APUs), which are designed to eliminate the need for truck engine idling (e.g., to provide heating, air conditioning, or electricity) at vehicle rest stops or other temporary parking locations. The bill would also exempt the installation of advanced insulation, which can reduce the need for energy consumption by transportation vehicles carrying refrigerated cargo. Both of these exemptions are intended to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector. This proposal is estimated to cost $77 million over 10 years.

OTHER TRANSPORTATION PROVISIONS

Restructuring of New York Liberty Zone tax credits. The bill would implement a proposal included in the President’s FY 2008 Budget to provide the City of New York and the State of New York with tax credits for expenditures made for transportation infrastructure projects connecting with the New York Liberty Zone. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.106 billion over 10 years.

Fringe benefit for bicycle commuters. The bill allows employers to provide employees that commute to work using a bicycle limited fringe benefits to offset the costs of such commuting (e.g., bicycle storage). This proposal is estimated to cost $10 million over 10 years.

III. ENERGY CONSERVATION AND EFFICIENCY

CONSERVATION TAX CREDIT BONDS

Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds. The bill creates a new category of tax credit bonds for green community programs and initiatives designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is a national limitation of $3 billion which is allocated to States and municipalities. This proposal is estimated to cost $864 million over 10 years. Qualified Forestry Conservation Bonds. The bill creates a new category of tax credit bonds for qualified forestry projects designed to acquire land subject to native fish habitat conservation plans for conservation purposes. This proposal is estimated to cost $161 million over 10 years.

EFFICIENCY

Extension and modification of credit for energy-efficiency improvements to existing homes. The bill extends the tax credits for energy-efficient existing homes for one year (through December 31, 2008) and includes energy-efficient biomass fuel stoves as a new class of energy-efficient property eligible for a consumer tax credit of $300. This proposal is estimated to cost $402 million over 10 years. Extension of energy-efficient commercial buildings. The bill extends the energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction for five years (through December 31, 2013). This proposal is estimated to cost $901 million over 10 years.

Modification and extension of energy-efficient appliance credit. The bill would modify the existing energy-efficient appliance credit and extend this credit for three years (through the end of 2010). This proposal is estimated to cost $344 million over 10 years. Seven-year depreciation for smart meters. The bill would allow electric utilities to depreciate smart electric meters over a seven-year period. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.02 billion over 10 years.

IV. OTHER PROVISIONS

FORESTRY PROVISIONS

One-year enactment of the Timber Revitalization and Economic Enhancement (TREE) Act of 2007. The bill would enact for one-year the provisions of H.R. 1937 and S. 402 to provide a deduction for qualified timber gains and to modernize certain provisions applicable to timber real estate investment trusts (REITs). This proposal is estimated to cost $435 million over 10 years.

OTHER

Income averaging for Exxon Valdez litigation amounts. The bill would allow commercial fishermen and other individuals whose livelihoods were negatively impacted by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill to average any settlement or judgment-related income that they receive in connection with pending litigation in the federal courts over three years for federal tax purposes. The bill would also allow these individuals to use these funds to make contributions to retirement accounts. This proposal is estimated to cost $215 million over 10 years.

Reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 and Payment in Lieu of Taxes. The bill would reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools program through 2011. It also adjusts the funding distribution formula to take into account historic payment levels to counties, average income levels in counties and acreage of federal land. Finally, the provision also provides for full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program for 2009. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.863 billion over 10 years.

Offset the cost of increasing the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. The bill would offset the revenue loss associated with the increase in the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. The cost of increasing the CAFE standards has been estimated to cost $2.114 billion over 10 years.

V. REVENUE PROVISIONS

Modification to Section 199. The proposal excludes gross receipts of major integrated oil companies derived from the sale, exchange or other disposition of oil, natural gas, or any primary product thereof from the domestic production deduction for purposes of Section 199. Primary products do not include petrochemicals, medicinal products, insecticides, and alcohols. The proposal is estimated to raise $9.433 billion over 10 years.

7-year amortization of geological and geophysical expenditures for certain major integrated oil companies. The bill increases the amortization period for geological and geophysical expenditures (G&G costs) from five years to seven years for large integrated oil companies. This proposal is estimated to raise $103 million over 10 years. Clarification of foreign oil and gas extraction income. The tax code limits the ability of oil and gas companies to claim foreign tax credits with respect to foreign oil and gas extraction income. The bill would expand the present-law foreign oil and gas extraction income rules to apply to all foreign income from production and other activity related to the sale of oil and gas. This proposal is estimated to raise $3.187 billion over 10 years.

Modification of penalty for failure to file partnership returns. Currently, a penalty is imposed on partnerships that fail to timely file a return. The penalty amount is computed for each month the return is outstanding (not to exceed 5 months) and $50 multiplied by the number of partners. The proposal increases the maximum number of months from 5 to 12 and increases the multiple from $50 to $100. The proposal applies to returns filed after the date of enactment. The proposal raises $655 million over ten years. Interest suspension. The Internal Revenue Code suspends the accrual of certain penalties and interest starting 22 months after the filing of the tax return if the IRS has not sent the taxpayer a notice specifically stating the taxpayer’s liability and the basis for the liability within the specified period. The proposal repeals the suspension of certain penalties and interest. The proposal is estimated to raise $128 million over ten years.

Option to treat elective deferrals as after tax contributions. Governmental section 457(b) plans may include a qualified Roth contribution program under which plan participants are permitted to designate elective deferrals that could be otherwise deferred under the plan as Roth contributions subject to the present-law rules. Such a designated Roth contribution is includible in gross income in the year of deferral and a subsequent distribution of such contribution (and the income on such contributions) is excluded from gross income if the distribution is a qualified distribution. The proposal is effective for taxable years after December 31, 2007. The proposal is estimated to raise $1.035 billion over ten years.

REVENUE PROVISIONS IN THE PRESIDENT’S FY 2008 BUDGET

Basis reporting by brokers on sales of stock. The bill creates mandatory cost basis reporting by brokers for transactions involving publicly traded securities. Covered securities are generally stock, debt, commodities, derivatives and other items as specified by the Treasury Secretary, which are acquired in the account or transferred to the account managed by the broker. The President’s FY 2008 Budget recommends that Congress require basis reporting on security sales. The Treasury Department explains that this proposal is necessary because “compliance increases significantly for amounts that a third party reports to the IRS. The potential for non-compliance on sales of securities is considerable under current law, because the taxpayer’s basis is not reported to the IRS. Requiring brokers to maintain records of the adjusted basis of securities sold by their customers and report this information to the IRS would increase compliance with capital gains reporting. In addition, such a requirement would provide significant simplification benefits by relieving taxpayers from the often complicated task of calculating adjusted basis to determine gain or loss on the sale of securities.” The provision applies to stock acquired after January 1, 2009 and after January 1, 2011 for all other instruments. This proposal is estimated to raise $4.106 billion over 10 years.

Extend FUTA taxes for one year. The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (“FUTA”) imposes a 6.2 percent gross tax rate on the first $7,000 paid annually by covered employers to each employee. In 1976, Congress passed a temporary surtax of 0.2 percent of taxable wages to be added to the permanent FUTA tax rate. The temporary surtax subsequently has been extended through 2007. The President’s FY 2008 Budget proposes extending the FUTA surtax. The Treasury Department states that “extending the surtax will support the continued solvency of the Federal unemployment trust funds and maintain the ability of the unemployment system to adjust to any economic downturns.” The bill would enact the President’s proposal for one year (through 2008). This provision is estimated to raise $1.446 billion over 10 years.

Older posts: 1 2 3