Bennet pushes to extend tax credit for wind-energy production

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., filed Wednesday a bipartisan amendment for a two-year extension of the wind energy production-tax credit to a tax extension bill introduced in the Senate Finance Committee.

Bennet joined Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, to file the amendment in the bill, introduced Tuesday.

The amendment follows efforts by Bennet, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and other lawmakers to include an extension in the bill that have so far failed. An initial draft of the bill did not include an amendment, disappointing Bennet and other lawmakers after they had urged Finance Committee leadership in a recent letter to include the amendment.

“The wind PTC cuts right to the core of whether and how we want to compete in the global and changing economy,” Bennet said in a statement issued by his office Wednesday. “It has triggered tremendous economic growth in Colorado and all across the country, and we’ve seen the kind of economic damage that comes with allowing it to expire prematurely.”

Colorado generates the sixth-highest percentage of power from wind of any state in the nation, according to Bennet’s office. The wind industry employs about 5,000 workers statewide.

Vestas Wind Systems A/S (OMX: VWS) operates factories in Windsor, Brighton and Pueblo. The company recently said it planned to hire more workers following record wind-turbine orders in 2013. The company has said it will employ more than 2,000 employees statewide, mostly in manufacturing, by the end of the year.

Vestas reached a peak of 1,800 employees in 2012, but laid off hundreds of workers when Congress waited until the beginning of 2013 to renew the production tax credit.

A Vestas spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday’s efforts to extend the tax credit.

Nationwide, a permanent expiration of tax credit could cost as many as 37,000 jobs, according to Bennet’s office.