PennEnvironment urges extension of tax credits for wind energy

PennEnvironment, a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization, is convening press conferences in key Pennsylvania cities Wednesday, Nov. 28, to deliver a report on the benefits of wind power while urging Congressional leaders to extend existing tax credits for its production, credits that will expire Dec. 31 if the fiscal cliff is not averted.

Representatives of PennEnvironment will be at Mercyhurst University at 2:30 p.m. to release a new report that quantifies the public health and environmental benefits of wind power for Pennsylvania, including the reduction in global warming pollution and savings in water resources. Press conferences are slated for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton and Erie. In the spirit of unity, PennEnvironment’s sister organizations will issue the same report Wednesday at public venues nationwide.

The organization chose to make its local announcement at Mercyhurst in light of the university’s leadership in sustainability, particularly its commitment to a wind energy purchase of 100 percent in 2010.

“We became one of four Pennsylvania schools to have made that total commitment to wind —and we did it with the support of students who opted in 2007 to pass a five dollar green-energy fee to support this and other sustainability initiatives on campus,” said Chris Magoc, Ph.D., Mercyhurst Green Team founder, who will speak at Wednesday’s event. “Since 2010, we have offset through our wind purchase an estimated 25,000 pounds of carbon emissions.”

Also slated to speak Wednesday are Pa. Rep. Patrick Harkins, State Senator-Elect Sean Wiley along with Mary Kate Ranii, Western Pennsylvania field associate for PennEnvironment.

America has tripled its use of wind power since 2008, displacing an estimated 68 million metric tons of global warming pollution each year — as much as is produced by 13 million cars. Further, wind energy saves more than enough water nationwide to meet the needs of a city the size of Boston.

“There is still plenty of room for growth in wind energy,” according to the report summary. “But the pending expiration of the production tax credit threatens the future expansion of wind power. To protect the environment, federal and state governments should continue and expand policies that support wind energy.”

Among its recommendations, the report urges policymakers to:

• Extend the production tax credit. The federal renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) has been one of the most important tools to help grow the wind industry in the United States, but it is set to expire at the end of 2012. The loss of the tax credit could cause new construction to drop by 75 percent and allow global warming pollution and water consumption to continue unabated.

• Extend the offshore wind investment tax credit. The offshore wind investment tax credit (ITC) is designed to address the longer timelines for development and construction of offshore wind energy facilities. It covers up to 30 percent of the cost of new wind investments and grants offshore wind developers eligibility for the credit at the point that construction begins. The offshore wind ITC also expires on December 31.

“There are those who say that we can no longer afford the renewable production tax credit at a time of large deficits,” Magoc said. “Others claim that the days of America doing big things like forging ahead with a national commitment to a renewable energy future, updating for the 21st century the system that transmits our energy…are over. As an historian, I fiercely resist that second notion that America cannot rise to profoundly threatening challenges, even in grim economic times; we have done it, again and again. And to the first claim that we can’t afford this — our response has to be that with the dark and looming threats posed by a warming planet, with a desperate need for good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced, with threats to water and other natural systems – we can’t afford not to do it.”
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