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Congress to take up Energy Efficiency, Tax Credits?

Congress returned to Washington this week for a lengthy session that promised Senate action on energy efficiency legislation and renewable energy tax credits as well as appropriations and water infrastructure legislation.

ERG was told that action may heat up early next week in the Senate, with both minimum wage legislation and then the bipartisan energy bill sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH).

Negotiations continue over how to bring that bill to the floor, including what amendments could be offered, but Republicans are expected to use the opportunity to push for controversial votes on the Keystone XL pipeline and other contentious issues, which might present problems for the entire bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he wants to pass a “tax extenders” bill to renew dozens of expired tax breaks, including the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) and several other energy-related incentives. Enacting such a bill is a top priority for Reid and new Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has said these incentives should be extended one last time – but then be part of a comprehensive tax reform package.

Wyden’s bill would extend most of the 50 or so extenders for two years, but in the House, Republicans are looking at identifying a much smaller number to make permanent, such as the research and development tax credit. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) has proposed eliminating the PTC, and it has encountered much more resistance this year than previous times it was extended, despite still enjoying some bipartisan support.

More than two dozen organizations, including Americans for Prosperity and the American Energy Alliance, sent Camp a letter last week urging him not to extend the credit.  Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) last week said a vote on a permanent R&D tax credit could be expected next month.

According to an April 2 Gallup poll, more than 64 percent of Americans favor clean energy over oil, gas and coal. Almost 60 percent believe our country should emphasize conservation to help meet our energy needs. Nearly 70 percent favor spending more government money on developing solar and wind power.  Americans want to break our addiction to fossil fuels by investing in the clean technologies of today and tomorrow. Congress, however, continues to hold to decades old subsidies for oil and gas, without leveling the playing field with similar incentives for renewables or alternative energy production sources.

Cantor’s memo touted bills that passed the House earlier this year such as a propane transportation bill and a measure requiring regulatory agencies to consider job impacts when writing rules.

The House plans to begin moving appropriations bills this month, the earliest start in 40 years. Bills to fund military construction/veterans affairs and the legislative branch will be among the first considered, but spending bills for energy, environmental and Interior agencies aren’t expected until after Memorial Day.