Brownback, other politicians urge congress to extend wind tax credits




Special to The Telegram

A bipartisan group of four governors, including Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, and U.S. Sen. Charles "Chuck" Grassley, R-Iowa, jointly urged Congress to extend the wind production tax credit during this lame-duck session.

In a telephone news conference Tuesday morning, Brownback mentioned the Siemens Wind Power plant in Hutchinson, where jobs have been cut partly due to uncertainty about the tax credit that expires at the end of 2012.

"We're seeking to be the renewable state," Brownback said, noting that he dedicated three wind farms in a single day in Ford County.

However, the wind energy sector will stall, Brownback warned, without the federal tax credit to providers buying wind-generated power.

Everybody wants to deal with the nation's financial problems, Brownback said, but "the more prudent route to go here" is to phase out the tax credit over a three- to four-year span, he said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, introduced an overall energy bill in November 2011 that would allow the wind production tax credit to expire. U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler/Hutchinson, is a co-sponsor. The bill is pending in Congress.

Besides Brownback and Grassley, the other participants in the conference call were Govs. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa; John Kitzhaber, D-Oregon, and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.

Although Pompeo's bill has attracted over 20 co-sponsors, none are from Iowa, Colorado, or Oregon, which all have wind energy development.

Iowa Gov. Branstad said Siemens' operation in Fort Madison, Iowa, recently announced 400 layoffs and another wind employer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, laid off 100 workers, because of the possibility the tax credit could end.

Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber said one rural county in his state receives $33 million per year in revenues from wind farms, while Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper said direct and indirect employment from wind energy amounts to 5,000 to 6,000 jobs in Colorado.

"We know that this is not going to be something that lasts forever," Branstad said of the tax incentive that began in 1992.

Daniel Simmons, director of state affairs for the Institute for Energy Research, is a critic of the tax credit and wrote recently that the "temporary" tax credit has been extended six times and has amounted to $20 billion in subsidies since 1992.

Pass at least a one-year extension, Grassley urged Tuesday.

"We have a 20-year investment," Grassley said, and it would be "terrible" to throw away what can be a "mature industry" in a short period of time.

Brownback noted that Kansas' two senators, Jerry Moran, R-Hays, and Pat Roberts, R-Dodge City, strongly support an extension beyond 2012.

Siemens Wind Power, Hutchinson, announced in September that 110 contract employees would leave at the end of that month, and another 146 workers would be laid off, starting in mid-November.

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