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To Wind's Credit: Lawmakers quibble over Business Energy Tax Credit rollbacks

The success of a bill that would slow wind farm development in Oregon seems assured in Salem this week, slowed only by disagreements as to the extent of cuts to the green energy tax subsidy. ...Hunt said the changes would save the state nearly $70 million over the next six years.

The success of a bill that would slow wind farm development in Oregon seems assured in Salem this week, slowed only by disagreements as to the extent of cuts to the green energy tax subsidy.

The Business Energy Tax Credit, made law in 2007, gives green energy producers a 50 percent credit on renewable energy projects of up to $20 million - a $10 million tax break. This has made Oregon particularly attractive to wind developers, as evidenced by the scores of new wind farms in the state.

But, with an eye to helping the state's budget crisis, the House of Representatives passed a bill in May, HB 2472, that would reduce that cap to $15 million, making a maximum total credit of $7.5 million. The bill would also close the loophole that allows companies to split up large projects and seek tax credit for each facility, among other provisions.

Rep. Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton) said he voted against the bill.

"The Republicans position was this is an extremely competitive industry, and Oregon had moved into the top tier in the country in terms of wind development," he said. "But what the wind industry is saying is we'd drop down to the second or third... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The success of a bill that would slow wind farm development in Oregon seems assured in Salem this week, slowed only by disagreements as to the extent of cuts to the green energy tax subsidy.

The Business Energy Tax Credit, made law in 2007, gives green energy producers a 50 percent credit on renewable energy projects of up to $20 million - a $10 million tax break. This has made Oregon particularly attractive to wind developers, as evidenced by the scores of new wind farms in the state.

But, with an eye to helping the state's budget crisis, the House of Representatives passed a bill in May, HB 2472, that would reduce that cap to $15 million, making a maximum total credit of $7.5 million. The bill would also close the loophole that allows companies to split up large projects and seek tax credit for each facility, among other provisions.

Rep. Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton) said he voted against the bill.

"The Republicans position was this is an extremely competitive industry, and Oregon had moved into the top tier in the country in terms of wind development," he said. "But what the wind industry is saying is we'd drop down to the second or third tier or less" if the bill passes, he said.

Jenson said wind developers were likely to look for sites in the Western Plains states if Oregon became an unfavorable place to do business.

Proponents of the bill said it would "rein in" some aspects to the Business Energy Tax Credit, or BETC.

"The BETC credit has been an excellent tool for Oregon that has attracted new and growing renewable energy companies into Oregon," said House Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County) in a press release. "It is a tool that we needed to sharpen just a bit to make sure it works as intended."

Hunt said the changes would save the state nearly $70 million over the next six years. The changes would not affect wind projects already in the ground, or those that had received preliminary tax-credit certification from the Oregon Department of Energy before 2010.

When the bill passed into the Senate this month, however, lawmakers decided cuts to the BETC could be even deeper. They added amendments that would cut the maximum credit for renewable energy projects down to $3 million.

Oregon's ability to attract green energy producers would be hampered by such a move, said Suzanne Leta Liou, senior policy advocate for Renewable Northwest Project.

WIth wind projects in particular, she said, Oregon's tax credit needs to be at least $7 million to be on equal footing with Washington state's tax incentives.

"The senate version (of HB 2174) would give Washington a significantly stronger ability to attract wind projects," Leta Liou said.

According to the Renewable Northwest Project, Oregon wind projects have provided 4,650 jobs, paid between $240 million and $470 million to rural landowners, and generated about $464 million in new taxes.

On Tuesday, the House voted not to concur with the Senate's changes to HB 2472, and the bill went to a conference of three senators and three representatives. The House and the Senate must agree before the bill goes to the governor for signing.

Liou said Renewable Northwest Project considers the House version of HB 2472 "a reasonable approach given Oregon's budget situation."


Source: http://eastoregonian.com/ma...

JUN 25 2009
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