Renewable energy credits ‘unlikely’ to hitch ride on FAA bill

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, June 27, 2016

A key Senate Republican is casting doubts on efforts to extend renewable energy tax breaks in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill in the coming weeks.

“Unlikely,” Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) told¬†E&E Daily¬†last night about Democrats’ desire to extend renewable tax breaks left out of last year’s bipartisan deal. “I think if that gets done, it’s probably going to be some other tax vehicle.”

Democrats are eying the July 15 expiration of FAA’s authority to fix what they call a mistake in tax and spending legislation signed into law in December.

That measure extended the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar for five years but left out other energy sources that many lawmakers had agreed to address, including geothermal, fuel cells, and combined heat and power facilities.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking member on the Finance Committee, has been pressing the issue for weeks (E&E Daily, June 9). Earlier this week, Wyden signaled that the ITC correction was up in the air.

“Let’s wait and see what the Republicans are going to do,” he told reporters. Wyden wants lawmakers to discuss a host of tax breaks, not just those that ended up left out of the December deal.

Thune said Republicans were working toward some sort of an FAA extension. “If it’s a longer-term extension, we’re going to try and get as much policy incorporated into it as we can,” he said.

Revenue bills must originate in the House, and because the FAA extension addresses fees the agency collects, many lawmakers see reauthorization legislation as a prime opportunity for tax riders.

But Thune said those riders may have to hitch a ride on another bill. “You’re probably talking about something year-end, and there’s not a lot of them,” he said of potential legislative vehicles.

The Senate in April appeared to be closing in on an agreement to address the ITC and other extenders in the chamber’s long-term FAA bill, but the efforts collapsed.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of his party’s leadership team, blamed the Koch brothers, who are tied to the group Americans for Prosperity, which threatened to punish lawmakers who voted for an FAA bill with renewable tax breaks (E&ENews PM, April 12).

AFP last week reiterated its opposition to using FAA’s upcoming expiration as an opportunity to extend the incentives it opposes (Greenwire, June 17).

Thune yesterday alluded to the lack of appetite among House Republicans for bringing controversial tax provisions into the FAA mix.

“We managed to keep the FAA stuff pretty clean when it went over to the House, and I think whatever they come up with and send back will be specifically focused on that, is my guess,” he said.