More Than 100 House Democrats Demand Extending Billions Worth Of Green Energy Subsidies

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor
  • More than 100 House Democrats are demanding green energy tax subsidies be extended to counteract President Donald Trump’s de-regulatory agenda.
  • Democrats claim extending green energy subsidies will “prepare our communities for the damaging effects of rising sea levels, severe weather and catastrophic wildfires.”
  • However, extending green energy tax credits would cost billions of dollars at a time when Democrats oppose even modest funding for a southern border wall.

More than 100 House Democrats are demanding legislation to extend billions of dollars worth of green tax subsidies to counteract the Trump administration’s energy agenda and to “prepare” the U.S. for global warming.

Democrats called for extending tax subsidies for green technologies, including wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars, energy efficiency, biofuels and energy storage, in a bid to counteract the policies of the Trump administration.

“Simply put, investments in clean energy will help the U.S. reduce carbon pollution, prepare our communities for the damaging effects of rising sea levels, severe weather and catastrophic wildfires, all the while supporting innovation and job creation positioning the U.S. to lead in a global clean energy economy,” Democratic lawmakers, led by New York Rep. Paul Tonko, wrote in a letter to Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

One of the letter’s signatories, Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle, introduced legislation Thursday to extend investment tax credits to energy storage systems. Energy storage currently only qualifies for tax subsidies when paired with a solar project.

Democrats said the 2015 political deal to phase-out green subsidies was based on expectations Obama-era regulations would remain in place and that the U.S. would not withdraw from the Paris climate accord. President Donald Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda frustrated Democrats’ plans of using regulations and legislation to force more solar onto the U.S. grid.

EPA Administrator Pruitt testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing in Washington

REP. Paul Tonko (D-NY) looks on as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on the FY2019 Environmental Protection Agency budget in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder.

“The latest extension and phase-out of these clean-energy tax credits were intended to serve as a bridge to the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, among a suite of other regulations and policies to reduce carbon emissions,” Democrats wrote. “This is no longer the case.”

The letter was welcomed by green energy interests that stand to benefit from long-term tax subsidies.

“Clarifying the tax code for energy storage technologies is also a critical piece of the puzzle that would have technology-neutral benefits,” Gregory Wetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said in a statement.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) hailed Doyle’s bill to extend subsidies to energy storage, which experts say is necessary to make renewables more reliable.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made similar demands in a letter sent to Trump late in 2018, asking the president to support permanently extending green tax subsidies to fight global warming.

At the same time, however, Democrats were also chafing at Trump’s request to Congress for $5.7 billion for a southern border wall. The border wall fight eventually led to the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.

Democratic Congressional leaders Pelosi and Schumer speak after deal was reached to end partial government shutdown in Washington

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speak after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a deal had been reached to end the partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

Tax subsidies for wind and solar farms alone are expected to cost $32 billion through 2022, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. (RELATED: Colorado Democrats Pass Bill To Crack Down On A Pillar Of State’s Economy – Oil And Gas Drilling)

The so-called wind production tax credit and solar investment tax credit are currently set to expire in 2022. But now, Democrats want to extend them into the future as part of their climate agenda, which, if enacted, would mean billions more tax benefits to solar and wind companies.

“SEIA is pleased to see such strong support for clean energy priorities as laid out in this letter to Chairman Neal,” said Erin Duncan, the vice president of congressional affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“As Congress explores solutions to address a wide range of concerns about climate, resilience, infrastructure, and jobs, we know that clean energy tax incentives work,” Duncan said in an emailed statement.

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