Senate Finance to launch annual extenders ritual

Source: By Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, July 20, 2015

The Senate Finance Committee tomorrow will mark up a broad tax package that includes a number of expired energy incentives, as senators look to clear the decks on the annual extenders battle.

As expected, the chairman’s mark released Friday contains two-year extensions of the 52 on-again, off-again tax breaks that spark the extenders ritual, including the particularly contentious renewable production tax credit (E&E Daily, July 16).

In addition, the bill would extend the option for renewable projects to choose between the PTC and the 30 percent investment tax credit through 2016, which is estimated to cost $10.4 billion over 10 years.

Also included in the extenders bill are an assortment of other alternative fuel incentives and efficiency credits, along with a production tax credit for coal produced in Indian country, according to a committee summary.

On Friday, a group of biofuel trade groups sent a letter urging finance committee leaders to extend tax incentives for advanced biofuel production for multiple years. Included in the slate of credits for advanced biofuels are a $1.01-a-gallon credit for cellulosic and algae fuel producers, and a $1-a-gallon credit for biodiesel production. The industry organizations said that next-generation fuel producers are at a “critical stage of development” where tax credits are needed to help commercialize new technologies.

However, the package does not modify or extend the ITC, which faces a 2016 expiration of its current status. While the credit is usually associated with solar, a broad coalition of nonsolar energy interests, including the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, earlier this month had asked the Finance panel to extend the ITC, as well.

Keeping the PTC off the books is a top priority for free-market conservative groups, and eight senators last week penned a letter to their Finance colleagues criticizing the PTC and the ITC.

“We believe these flawed policies should permanently end, leaving the technologies to stand on their own without costly market-distorting taxpayer subsidies,” wrote Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and others.

Members of the Finance Committee are hoping to put the extenders debate behind them as soon as possible, to provide certainty to affected stakeholders and avoid the political repercussions ahead of next year’s elections.

In a statement, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) noted tomorrow’s markup is the first time in 20 years the extenders debate will kick off with the incentives already expired.

“This markup will give the Committee a timely opportunity to act on extending a number of expired provisions in the tax code that help families, individuals and small businesses,” he said.

Reporter Amanda Peterka contributed.

Schedule: The markup is Tuesday, July 21, at 11 a.m. in Dirksen 215.