UPDATE – Housing bill advances without renewables incentive

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., failed July 10 to amend an extension of expiring production tax credits into a major housing market rescue bill.

Ensign held up consideration of the housing bill in June by insisting that he be allowed to attach the renewable energy incentives. (HNN 6/26/08) However, Senate leaders succeeded in advancing the housing bill without the amendment.

Ensign issued a statement accusing majority Democrats of blocking his renewable energy amendment from any consideration, despite what he called overwhelming bipartisan support.

�These critical tax incentives need to be extended if we want to encourage more clean, renewable energy in this country,� Ensign said. �Unfortunately, I have been blocked out and we have missed a unique opportunity to send these incentives to the president’s desk. If we continue to drag our feet we could find ourselves looking back on a renewable energy potential that was never met.�

In remarks on the Senate floor June 26, Ensign said he and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., successfully added the same language to another home mortgage rescue bill endorsed by the Senate in April.

�Our amendment at that time passed with 88 yea votes and only eight nay votes,� Ensign said. �Rarely in this body something passed in that fashion in such a bipartisan fashion. Let’s take advantage of that bipartisanship and do something right for the American people.�

The original Ensign-Cantwell measure would have extended expiring production tax credits and other incentives for a year for renewables including incremental hydropower added to existing plants or water resources facilities. It also would have added marine and hydrokinetic energy to the list of eligible renewables. That measure also would have authorized an additional $400 million for the Clean Renewable Energy Bond program.

The Senate Democratic leadership said House Democrats would not agree to the renewables incentive legislation because it did not include tax increases or spending cuts to pay for it. Conversely, Senate Republicans have prevented action on several renewables incentive bills that included tax increases, particularly those revoking oil company production incentives.

In a final attempt to push his amendment, Ensign had modified it to reduce government spending across the board to fund the $8 billion in renewables incentives. The leadership also shunned that tactic.

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