Anti-Wind Measure Voted Down by U.S. Senate

The wind power industry is breathing a collective sigh of relief as an amendment to the energy bill, that would have crippled many wind power projects, was strongly voted down by the U.S. Senate.

Senate lawmakers voted 63-32 against the innocuously-named “Environmentally Responsible Wind Power Act of 2005” trumpeted by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) The item could have been rolled into the broad energy bill currently under consideration in Congress and it would have had immediate and devastating effects on the U.S. wind power industry, according to industry sources. When introducing the bill in a Senate floor speech delivered on Friday, May 13, Sen. Alexander attacked wind power, saying that “wind produces puny amounts of high-cost unreliable power,” and that “Congress should not subsidize the destruction of the American landscape.” The bill took square aim at the wind industry’s coveted Production Tax Credit (PTC), the on-again, off-again tax credit that is the federal government’s primary support mechanism to level wind power’s playing field with the traditional energy industries. The bill would have wiped out the availability of the PTC to any wind project located within 20 miles of a coastline, military base, national park or other highly scenic area. It would also have allowed a neighboring state to veto any wind project proposed within 20 miles of that state’s border. “By making the PTC unavailable for projects built within 20 miles of a coastline or hundreds of other specific locations, the Alexander-Warner amendment would have caused thousands of workers to lose their jobs, usurped local land use planning, and severely restricted wind development throughout the U.S., specifically in areas where local residents want wind turbines,” said American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Executive Director Randall Swisher. While every Senator has home state connections that partially motivate their policy decisions in Congress, a less public sentiment has surfaced among wind power advocates that Sen. Alexander has a personal stake in his stance. It was recently disclosed that the Senator owns undeveloped property worth close to $2 million on Nantucket Island. Boston-based Cape Wind Associates are hoping to build a 420 MW wind power project, the first offshore farm in the U.S., between Nantucket and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Wealthy Cape and Islands residents have been among the most vocal detractors to the project. Tom Grey, Communications Director for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said there was no clear indication of a connection, but AWEA did say that the Cape Wind proposal was the main project being attacked by Sens. Alexander and Warner. For more on this story, see the following two links below.

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