FAA bill clears hurdle amid optimism on renewable extension

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Senate breezed past the first procedural hurdle yesterday for a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, after overnight negotiations yielded a tentative agreement to extend a key renewable energy tax break that was left out of last year’s end-of-year omnibus tax deal.

The chamber voted 98-0 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the FAA measure (H.R. 636), after what Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called “very productive discussions” with Republicans on the tax title.

Reid has been angling to fix what Democrats call a mistake in last year’s omnibus deal, which extended the 48C investment tax credit for five years for solar but not for other qualifying sources, including biomass, geothermal and fuel-cell technology.

Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters he had not seen the agreement but said it was his understanding that the 48C tweak sought by Democrats would be included. A GOP aide said details of the tax title remain under discussion but the fix would likely make the cut.

Asked about other energy amendments, including extensions for biofuel credits that didn’t make the cut in last year’s deal that Finance ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been pushing, Thune suggested the title is “probably going to be fairly narrow.”

Wyden declined to discuss the extenders push in detail but signaled the “around-the-clock discussions” remain fluid. “We’ve obviously made a lot of progress overnight and early this morning,” he told reporters, adding, “We’ve obviously got a lot of work to do.”

Thune cast doubt that the FAA measure could be finished this week but said the tentative agreement on taxes was a positive sign.

“The wheels could come off at any point in the process,” he said. “But I think it’s significant that the leaders at least have agreed to the revenue piece of this, and I hope that will allow us to move forward.”

With few must-pass bills remaining for the year, various energy interests have been pressing to hitch a ride for their relative tax breaks on the FAA bill, which will include a tax title to address fees associated with the agency (E&E Daily, April 6).

While the Commerce Committee has the lead role in the FAA reauthorization, Finance will provide the tax title, which Thune said would likely be joined on the floor through a manager’s package.