Congressional Detours for Clean Energy in Transportation Bill

Earlier this week, U.S. Senators deliberated and voted upon a series of amendments to the $109 billion transportation re-authorization bill which passed the Senate earlier today.  The amendments ranged from ones clearly associated with transportation (such as incentives for natural gas vehicles) to those just along for the ride (such as a proposal to maintain the current federal salary freeze).

Nestled among this stack of amendments were several that could have significantly supported or obstructed clean energy development. However, in what has become a familiar refrain, clean energy policies took a detour once again and failed to be included a comprehensive legislative package – just like we saw in February when they were left out of the payroll extenders package.

Yesterday, only two Senators from the Southeast (Sens. Hagan of NC and Nelson of FL) supported an amendment from Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) that would have extended more than a dozen energy tax credits, to bolster manufacturing and production for wind and solar energy. Although the Stabenow amendment had the support of several Republican colleagues as well as renewables groups, it failed to meet the 60-vote threshold (final vote was 49-49) and so another opportunity was lost to extend expiring tax credits for domestically produced clean energy. On a more positive note, the Senate also firmly rejected an amendment from Senator DeMint (R- S.C.) that would have rescinded a host of clean energy tax incentives, including tax credits for wind, solar and biofuels.

The glass half full: twice as many Senators from our region had the sense to reject DeMint’s harmful proposal as supported the Stabenow amendment.

The glass half empty: given the robust renewable energy potential of our region, there should be near universal support for policies that harness abundant, free energy resources that create jobs and ensure a steady supply of clean, safe energy.

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