WASHINGTON, March 11, 2012  –  Renewable energy advocates will be watching closely this week to see if some of their favorite tax incentives will be renewed and extended as part of a surface transportation bill, S. 1813, that’s been slowly moving through the U.S. Senate.


The Senate starting moving forward on passage of a two-year, $109 billion surface transportation bill again last week, voting on 8 amendments, with another 22 amendments up for consideration this week. Lawmakers need to extend this package of federal transportation programs before the end of the month, when the government loses the authority to spend money on crucial infrastructure projects.


Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich, plans to offer amendment S.1812, which would extend and renew a variety of renewable energy production tax credits.


"We cannot allow a tax increase on American businesses that are creating clean energy jobs in America," Stabenow said. "These entrepreneurs are inventing new technology, hiring workers, and producing cutting-edge new products that save consumers money and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Especially when gas prices are rising, we shouldn't be raising taxes on innovators and job creators who are helping to lower America's energy bills." Nonetheless, analysts say the Stabenow measure, which requires 60 votes for passage, faces tough odds.

If adopted, the amendment would revive through next year the $1-per-gallon biodiesel production tax credit, which expired last year, extend through 2013 the Production Tax Credit for wind energy (also set to expire at the end of this year), extend for another year those tax credits for companies producing the next-generation of cellulosic biofuels, and sustain the Accelerated Depreciation Allowance for cellulosic biofuel plant property through 2013.


Stabenow’s amendment includes language that would treat algae as a qualified feedstock for the cellulosic biofuel producer credit. Algae would also be treated as a qualified feedstock for purposes of bonus depreciation for biofuel plant property.

The measure renews through 2013 the Section 1603 program that provides U.S. Treasury grants in lieu of tax credits – a provision that offers greater liquidity to renewable energy companies building facilities.

And her bill would also renew the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, a 30 percent tax credit for companies that re-equip or build new facilities for clean energy product manufacturing. The energy manufacturing credit expired in 2010. And it would extend tax credits for companies that install charging stations for electric vehicles and alternative fuel dispensers, like ethanol blender pumps.


However, another proposed amendment to the transportation bill from Sen. Jim Demint, R-S.C., would immediately end all energy tax credits, including those for renewable energy and fossil fuel energy. His measure would also require a corresponding reduction in the corporate tax rate.

Turned back in separate votes last Thursday was a Republican amendment that would fast-track approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and another measure directing the EPA to rewrite boiler rules requiring operators to install modern emissions controls. The pipeline amendment fell four votes short of the 60 required for passage, while the EPA-boiler provision fell eight votes short.


With a wide variety of both Democrat and GOP-leaning organization supporting the transportation bill, Senate passage is expected. However, in the House of Representatives, lawmakers have been considering a longer-term deal that appropriated less money year-over-year. But both Democrats and Republicans are balking at this approach and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week that he would consider bringing the Senate’s bill up for a vote in the House unless a deal can be reached.

In a recent letter to Senate members, the American Farm Bureau Federation said it supports a handful of amendments in the Senate bill, including SA1653, which would allow farmers and ranchers who live near state borders to transport their products to the closest processing facilities, even if it may be in a neighboring state; SA1654, which would protect private property rights by prohibiting the use of eminent domain for private economic development by federal agencies, and by state and local governments that received federal economic development funds; SA1538, which would allow farmers and custom harvesters with a Class A commercial driver’s license to transport more than 118 gallons of diesel fuel without having to obtain a hazardous material endorsement; and SA1617, which clarifies certain driving restrictions during planting and harvest seasons for producers who are transporting agricultural goods.


The House transportation bill, H.R. 7, contains provisions supported by AFBF and several other agricultural organizations that would clarify the hours of service exemption for agriculture and exempt farm vehicles, including the individual operating the vehicle, from any requirement related to commercial driver’s licenses, drug testing and hours of service.


Sen. Stabenow will also be front and center on Wednesday morning, when the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry that she chairs holds its fourth farm bill hearing. The hearing, Risk Management and Commodities in the 2012 Farm Bill, will evaluate the need for and cost effectiveness of risk management tools available to farmers who continue to face increasingly volatile crop prices, input costs and the threat of natural disasters; and how the federal government can provide appropriate risk management tools while making the best use of limited resources.


For other hearings and events this week:


Monday, March 12


1:00 p.m., House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands; Hearing: Oversight Field Hearing on "Explosion of Federal Regulations Threatening Jobs and Economic Survival in the West," Elko Convention Center, 700 Moren Way, Elko, Nevada


2:00 p.m., The U.S. Senate convenes and will be in morning business until 4:00 p.m. Then the Senate will resume consideration of S. 1813, the Surface Transportation Act, but there will be no roll call votes on the measure until Tuesday.


It’s a constituent work week for members of the U.S. House of Representatives.


Tuesday, March 13


10:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Hearings to examine the report of the Independent Consultant's Review with Respect to the Department of Energy Loan and Loan Guarantee Portfolio, Dirksen 366


Wednesday, March 14

9:30 a.m., Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Oversight of Federal Onshore and Offshore Energy Development Programs in the Department of the Interior, Dirksen 124


10:00 a.m., Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Risk Management and Commodities in the 2012 Farm Bill, 216 Senate Hart Office Building


Thursday, March 15


9:00 a.m., Senate Appropriations: Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies; Hearings to examine proposed budget estimates for fiscal year 2013 for the Department of Transportation.


10:00 a.m., Senate Finance Committee; Hearings to examine Russia's World Trade Organization (WTO) accession-implications for the United States, Dirksen 215 


8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., World Soy 2012 Washington Conference, Washington Court Hotel


12:00 p.m., “The Culture War Over Food and Farming: Who Is Winning?” Kenney Auditorium, Nitze Building atThe Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University


Friday, March 16

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will travel to Ohio and Michigan

12:00 to 1:30 p.m., Environmental Working Group (EWG) Farm Bill briefing at 1436 U. Street Suite 100.


This article was updated at 9:10 pm.


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