Congress urged to extend wind energy tax break

Activists say expiring federal credit for turbines helps clear air, fight climate change

November 28, 2012|Tim Wheeler

While politicians spar in Washington over how to keep the nation from going over a "fiscal cliff," environmental activists warn that the wind-energy industry faces its own cliff if Congress doesn't act soon to extend a federal tax break for turbine construction, which expires at the end of the year.

The latest alarm comes from Environment Maryland, which held a press conference on Baltimore's Federal Hill Wednesday to tout the environmental benefits of wind farms, including healthier air, water conservation and reduced emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants.

The group has produced a report attempting to quantify those benefits both to date and through 2016 if the wind production tax credit is extended. City Councilman James Kraft and a representative of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland were scheduled to join Environment Maryland at the press conference.

 The wind industry and its environmental allies have warned that tens of thousands of jobs and billions in investment in new wind projects could be lost if the tax credit isn't extended. Turbine manufacturers in Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania and elsewhere already have laid off hundreds of workers as the expiration date approaches.  In Maryland, with only two wind farms atop mountain ridges in the western part of the state, the credit's loss may add one more hurdle to the O'Malley administration's struggle to get a string of turbines built in the Atlantic off Ocean City.

The credit enjoys bipartisan support from political leaders in states where turbine construction or manufacturing have been concentrated. But some conservative groups are urging lawmakers to let the tax break go, arguing that the wind energy industry has grown strong enough to do without federal subsidy anymore.  Some environmentalists also oppose wind projects because of the threats they pose to migratory birds and bats.

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