UPDATE – Renewables incentive push stalls housing bill in Senate

The Senate will not consider a major housing market rescue bill until next month due to a delay by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who is trying to amend the bill with an extension of expiring production tax credits for renewables including some hydropower.

Ensign blocked action on the housing bill until after the Independence Day holiday by insisting that he be allowed to try to attach the renewable energy incentives. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pulled the housing bill from the debate calendar, saying the Senate would complete action the first week after the recess ending on July 8.

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. (HNN 4/21/08) Copies of Ensign’s latest amendment were not readily available.

�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. We know that not only do we want more American energy but whenever we can we should certainly try to incentivize bringing more green energy to the United States.�

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. (HNN 6/18/08)

On June 17, the Senate blocked debate of a bill to offer $17.7 billion in tax incentives including extension of expiring production tax credits for some hydropower and of the Clean Renewable Energy Bond program.

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