Minus Lamborn, Colorado congressional delegation pushes for wind energy tax credit

Eight of Colorado’s nine congressional delegates are calling for the extension of the federal wind production tax credit to be added to the nation’s pending payroll tax reduction package.

Udall and Bennet

U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, joined U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis, also Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, three Republicans, in writing a letter this week supporting the wind production tax credit (PTC).

Rep. Cory Gardner

“The PTC has been very effective in facilitating new market penetration of wind energy and moving us toward a more diversified and cleaner energy portfolio,” the Colorado politicians wrote to Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means. “A delay in this extension would do enormous damage to that progress. Unless the wind PTC is renewed in the first quarter of this year, new wind energy development projects and the thousands of jobs associated with those projects are predicted to drop off precipitously after 2012.”

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, is the lone holdout in the state’s bipartisan push.

Rep. Lamborn

Lamborn clarified that he supports wind energy as part of an “all-of-the-above energy plan” but that he is in favor of removing regulatory barriers for the industry as opposed to encouraging its development via tax breaks.

“My preference is to help industry grow by reducing federal regulations and mandates as opposed to carving out special interests in the tax code,” Lamborn wrote in an email to the Colorado Independent on Tuesday.

Lamborn, who is the chairman of the Natural Resources subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, recently supported H.R. 2173, the Advancing Offshore Wind Production Act, which would slash government red tape for the wind industry in seeking permits on federal lands. He also recently introduced a plan to open about 2 million acres of public lands in Utah, Wyoming and western Colorado to oil shale drilling, which environmentalists strongly oppose. The U.S. Department of Interior has different ideas and is trying to rein in oil shale leasing in the American West.

Polls show, however, that Colorado residents prefer renewable energy over fossil fuels.

Renewable energy experts say the wind production tax credit is key for Colorado.

“Manufacturing jobs are critical in America’s economic recovery,” Tim Heaton and Lee Boughey, chairs of the Colorado Energy Coalition, said in a joint statment. “The expiration of the Production Tax Credit would have a devastating impact on Colorado, affecting not only jobs and investment at our large wind manufacturers, but the many supply chain manufacturers that serve the wind industry. To provide the certainty that wind-energy companies need to create more jobs and investment in Colorado, the Colorado Energy Coalition endorses a three- to five-year extension of the PTC.”

The legislation, which President George H.W. Bush first signed into law in 1992, gives owners of wind energy farms a 2.2 cents-per-kilowatt credit on their U.S. income taxes annually for the first decade of the wind farm’s existence. It has been extended many times and is set to expire at the end of the year.

Colorado generates the third highest percentage of power from wind of any state in the nation and is home to several major wind energy developers and wind turbine manufacturing facilities.

Estimates show that wind energy employs upwards of 6,000 workers statewide.

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About the Author

Troy Hooper

Troy Hooper covers environmental policy for the American Independent News Network. His work has been published in The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Huffington Post, San Francisco Weekly, Playboy, New York Post, People and dozens of other publications. Hooper has covered the Winter Olympics in Italy, an extreme ski camp in South America and gone behind the scenes with Hunter S. Thompson on election night in 2004. Born and raised in Boulder, Hooper has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

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