Since he pledged to fight for the extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC) back in June, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has taken to the floor of the U.S. Senate to illustrate how the status of this key incentive for wind impacts U.S. states.
In fact, Udall has addressed Senate colleagues 10 times about the fallout that will likely occur throughout the country if the PTC will have on states if the tax credit is allowed to expire. Recently, Udall has focused on how the PTC impacts the states of South Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.
NAW caught up with Udall to check on his progress and get his outlook for such an extension.
‘I've been excited about our focus on the states,’ Udall tells NAW, adding that during a recent focus on Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, used some of his own floor time to extol the benefits of wind energy.
‘Some of my Senate colleagues wholeheartedly agree with me about [an extension],’ Udall says. However – based on two recent failed amendments that Udall proposed or co-sponsored – the senator's words have largely fallen on deaf ears.
Udall and Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Jerry Moran, R-Kans., filed an amendment to S.2237 – the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act – in July that would have extended the PTC for two years. However, the bill was defeated this month because it failed to receive enough votes for a debate.
In March, Udall co-introduced the American Energy and Job Promotion Act, which similarly aims to extend the incentive for two years. The Senate, however, has yet to take up the bill.
‘This is about jobs,’ he says.
Many of the jobs on the line reside in Udall's home state of Colorado. In January, Vestas – which has three production facilities in Brighton, Pueblo and Windsor – announced that it will lay off 1,600 workers in the U.S. if the PTC is not extended.
‘When you visit the Vestas facilities, you realize that these are good-paying jobs for highly skilled workers,’ Udall says. ‘If we didn't have the PTC, you would see great lapses in investment and capital availability. I think you're starting to see evidence of a pullback. It just doesn't make sense to allow the PTC to expire.’
Although he would not delve into specifics, Udall says he is currently working with the Finance Committee and other colleagues in the Senate to identify best-available offsets that can be paired with a proposal to extend the PTC.
When it comes to envisioning a scenario for when or how such an extension will play out, the senator is a bit more circumspect.
‘I have a murky crystal ball. I can predict that it will not be allowed to expire,’ he says, fully acknowledging that fellow legislators in the House, for example, need to be won over.
There are a few scenarios that could effect an extension of the PTC, such as including it within tax-reform legislation or attaching it as an amendment to a broader legislative bill. However it happens, Udall stresses the importance of passing PTC legislation this year.
If the PTC is allowed to expire and then approved next year – as some have predicted – the damage could already be done, Udall notes. ‘That's an unwise move. Once our competitors get ahead of us, like China, I'm not sure we can catch them,’ he says.
He adds that talk about a planned PTC phase-out has also increased on Capitol Hill. ‘I know the wind industry says it would support a phase-out, but if you allow the PTC to expire, you may not have much of a wind industry left to phase out at that point,’ he remarks.
Regardless of the mechanism used to extend the PTC, Udall urges Congress to act immediately.
‘What we're doing is creating uncertainty,’ he says. ‘Congress needs to act now.’