By Zack Colman - 10/18/12 08:15 PM EDT
A group of military veterans pressed congressional Republicans on Thursday to renew a tax credit for the wind industry that their party's standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, has vowed to end.
The veterans, who are all employed by the wind industry, secured meetings with staff for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and half of the Republican members on the House Ways and Means Committee, among others.
They promoted the credit as critical to expanding an industry that they said provides jobs for veterans and reduces dependence on foreign energy.
“I think they all get the jobs aspect. They understand this is a big industry now that supports 70,000-plus U.S. jobs, and a lot of those jobs could go away if the tax credit does,” said Michael Greczyn, vice president of West development at E.On climate and renewables.
Though some Republicans support an extension — namely, those in states with sizable wind industry sectors — many oppose the credit. Some call it unwise government intervention into the free market, while others are holding out for broad tax code reform.
Michael Wu, policy advocacy director with the Truman National Security Project — which convened the meetings as part of its Operation Free campaign — said the meetings were successful.
Still, Wu noted winning the support of some lawmakers — such as retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz,), a member of the Senate Finance Committee — is an uphill battle.
Greczyn said staff for some of the members he met with were either “on the fence” or opposed to extending the credit. Still, many said they were confident the credit extension would pass.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said the credit drove much of the industry’s third-quarter growth. Installations of new wind electricity capacity rose by 1,833 megawatts during the quarter, the industry group announced Thursday. Installed capacity has increased 40 percent through the quarter compared with 2011, it said.
AWEA said bipartisan support exists for extending the credit, adding that its termination would cost 37,000 jobs.
“This is what a successful policy looks like when it’s working, but whether wind will continue to be a bright spot in the U.S. economy now depends on whether Congress acts to extend the Production Tax Credit by the end of the year,” AWEA CEO Denise Bode said in a Thursday statement.
Greczyn said the congressional offices he met with believed a one-year extension would pass. They called action on the credit a “procedural matter,” referring to its status as one piece of the Senate tax extenders package.
Greczyn said the lawmakers are “being practical,” but told their staffs that each day of delay comes at the expense of investment.
“These projects take billions of dollars of investment, and heavy manufacturing just doesn’t ramp up at the drop of a hat. So really, every day you wait makes it that much more difficult to get projects built in 2013,” Greczyn said.
— Updated at 4:56 p.m.