- Tax provisions critical to the electric power sector remain in flux as Republicans try to reconcile competing House and Senate versions of tax reform, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said on Wednesday.
- The status of production tax credits for wind and nuclear energy, incentives for electric vehicles and a host of other "orphan" energy resources remain "in flux," Murkowski said after a conference committee on the bills. She urged the sector to "not panic," as tax incentives not in this bill could be included in an subsequent extenders package.
- Murkowski's comments came as clean energy lobbyists expressed hope that a reconciled tax bill would not include cuts to clean energy tax credits. GOP leaders say they expect text of the bill to be released Friday.
By typical legislative standards, Wednesday's conference committee to discuss competing versions tax reform was unusual.
Typically, conferences are called to reconcile competing pieces of legislation with discussion and amendments from both parties. But GOP leaders reportedly reached a tentative agreement to combine their tax bills before the conference was convened, leaving Democrats in the dark about the details.
"There was a time when the rallying cry of Republicans was 'read the bill,'" said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), referring to a common GOP line during the Obamacare debate. "Well, they’ve solved that problem by not giving us a bill to read."
Republicans also declined to discuss details of their tentative deal, meaning most of the conference involved reviewing the older House and Senate legislation. After the committee adjourned, Murkowski told Utility Dive that critical energy provisions are not finalized.
"They're still in flux," she said. "We've been asked to keep a lid on things until they're not in flux, so hopefully soon."
In particular, renewable energy interests are concerned with provisions in the House bill that would cut the production tax credit for wind and eliminate a $7,500 federal incentive for EVs. The Senate bill also left out tax credits for nuclear generation and included a Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) provision that wind and solar companies say could prevent them from monetizing tax credits.
Renewable energy lobbyists were hopeful before the conference committee that the wind and EV credits would be protected, and Bloomberg reported that their incentives will be included in the final bill, citing an unnamed GOP source.
"We're encouraged by reports of progress in the House-Senate conference – including indications that the direct assault on renewable energy in the House measures will not be included in the final bill," Gil Jenkins, vice president for communication at the American Council on Renewable Energy, wrote in an email. "We also understand there may be a repair to the BEAT program."
However, Jenkins wrote, the details of the repair remain unknown, and ACORE is "unsure if it will be sufficient to allow renewable energy projects access to the financing that is essential for the use of tax credits."
Murkowski offered no specifics on the BEAT provision or other issues after the conference. But she previously indicated that energy provisions left out of the larger tax reform could be included in a later tax extenders package.
"I do believe there will be an extenders that will incorporate many of the concerns whether it's wind or solar [or] the nuclear PTC," she said after a Tuesday meeting of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Murkowski, who chairs that committee, said she is aware of industry concerns that a promised tax extenders bill may not materialize. While she has not been given an concrete assurance from GOP leadership to push an extenders package, Murkowski said there's broad support for one.
"What I have received is an indication of a very clear desire to resolve the extenders," she said.
The senator reiterated that sentiment after the conference committee, seeking to calm industry sentiment.
"Don't panic," she said. "There is a path forward for all of that."