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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Group urges extension of federal wind-energy incentives

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Environmental groups are urging Congress to extend two tax-credit programs regarded as crucial to the continued growth of wind power. The latest is PennEnvironment, which this morning held a press conference in breezy Point State Park to announce its new report about the environmental benefits of wind power in Pennsylvania.

According to the report, wind energy in Pennsylvania, by replacing power generated by fossil fuels, “displaces as much global warming pollution as taking 218,000 cars off the road per year.” It also reduces soot and the pollutants that cause smog.

Because coal- and gas-fired power plants also use massive amounts of water for cooling, wind power also “saves enough water to meet the needs of 20,600 Pennsylvanians,” according to the report, “Wind Power for a Cleaner America.” Here's the report: PA_Wind_v7_screen.pdf.

The report, presented by PennEnvironment’s Erika Staaf, says that continued growth in wind capacity here would nearly double those beneficial impacts over the next four years alone.

“Wind offers us a welcome short-cut on the road to environmental sustainability and energy independence,” said Titus North, president of Citizen Power, who joined Staaf at the event. Locally based Citizen Power offers an affordable all-wind-energy option for Duquesne Light customers, and North said nearly 1,000 have signed up, generating demand equivalent to the production of two wind turbines.

But growth in wind power is unlikely if the wind-power tax credits are left to expire.

The federal incentives — the Production Tax Credit and the Offshore Wind Investment Tax Credit — helped spur a recent boom of wind in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. But both are set to expire on Dec. 31. Over the years such tax credits have expired and been renewed several times, and new wind capacity rises and falls accordingly.

Joining Staaf was Dan Lagiovane, spokesman for locally based wind-energy company Everpower. Lagiovane said uncertainty over the tax credits has already resulted in cancellation of at least three wind-power projects planned by other firms in Western Pennsylvania.
Some of the nation’s governors are also urging extension of the credits.

Other Pennsylvania-based groups calling for the extension of the credits include Penn Future.

Opponents of renewable-energy mandates and incentives are led by the fossil-fuel industry and some fiscal conservatives.

Wind advocates are asking citizens to contact U.S. Senators and Congressional members and tell them to extend the credits. While Sen. Bob Casey and Reps like Mike Doyle and Mark Critz are generally backers of wind power, Sen. Pat Toomey typically opposes tax credits for renewable energy.

Supporters of renewable-energy subsidies note that fossil-fuel exploration and extraction is also heavily subsidized, by things like tax credits and by below-market leases on federal land for coal companies. Nuclear power is also far more heavily subsidized than renewable energy.

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