Wind Power Supporters Pray For Subsidies Before Next Congress

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Wind power supporters are hoping their big campaign spending pays off this year and lawmakers reinstate lapsed green energy subsidies before the new Republican-controlled Senate is sworn in.

Wind lobbyists and environmental groups spent millions supporting Senate Democrats who support subsidies for the wind industry, but Republicans were still able to win in several key battleground states and are set to take control of both congressional chambers next year.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) together spent about $17.5 million defending vulnerable Senate Democrats in battleground states last election, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. AWEA’s President Tom Kiernan is the treasurer and a board member of LCV, meaning both these groups had a big stake in reinstating the Wind Production Tax Credit (wind PTC) before the next Congress.

Why the big push to defend Democrats? Wind supporters likely know the best chance of reinstating the wind PTC is likely this lame-duck session — before Republicans take control of the Senate in 2015.

Republicans were able to defeat two previous attempts by pro-wind lawmakers to extend wind tax credits in the past year.

At the end of last year, Republican opposition prevented wind tax credits from being extended into 2014. An attempt to sneak reinstating the wind PTC into a tax bill was made in May 2014, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada would not Republicans amend the bill so it died.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to step up Republican resistance to President Obama’s climate agenda, specifically targeting EPA regulations on the coal industry.

Republican lawmakers and conservative groups, however, are making the case that the wind PTC is key to the success of Obama’s climate agenda, which requires ramping up green energy use.

“If soon-to-be Majority Leader McConnell is indeed serious about reining in the EPA, he should start by opposing an extension of the wind PTC in the lame duck session,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the free-market American Energy Alliance. “In fact, rejecting the PTC is just about the only action the Senate can take during the lame duck to ‘rein in’ the EPA.”

The wind industry is highly dependent on subsidies like the wind PTC, a two-decade old subsidy that was not reinstated at the end of last year. The subsidy pays $23 per megawatt hour for 10 years to wind power projects that start construction or make investments by the credit’s expiration date.

Relatively few Republicans support wind energy tax credits, while the majority of Democrats are behind President Obama’s global warming regulations and subsidy regime for green energy production.

AWEA’s political action committee donated $90,000 to Senate candidates last election, $78,500 of which went to Democrats. Top AWEA-backed Senators included Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Udall of Colorado — all of whom lost their reelection bids.

AWEA also backed Iowa Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in his failed bid against Republican Joni Ernst as well as defeated Senate candidate Michelle Nunn in Georgia. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a recall election this month, also got AWEA funds and so did Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

LCV spent $105,917 on Senate Democrats last election cycle supporting many of the same candidates as AWEA, but the majority of the money spent by LCV came from independent expenditures.

According to CRP data, LCV spent nearly $16 million on independent expenditures to support Democrats in six battleground states — Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

The House is expected to vote on a tax extenders package Tuesday evening that includes the wind PTC and other tax provisions. House Republican leadership seems keen on passing the bill, but its fate outside the House still uncertain.

Neither AWEA nor LCV immediately responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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