Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Extension Of The Production Tax Credit For Wind Energy

Like others in this body, including Senator Udall of Colorado and my fellow senator from Vermont, Senator Sanders, I support extending the Production Tax Credit for wind energy. This extension is critical to maintaining America’s leadership in green energy development and can directly increase domestic job growth. Vermont has already seen the positive results of the Production Tax Credit for wind energy, but the wind industry impacts our entire country. Every American has a stake in the extension of this tax credit.

I am proud that Vermont is a leader in green energy.  My state has set ambitious, yet achievable, goals to develop renewable energy resources and technology. We are doing our part to promote job growth, national security, and environmental benefits that tap into local, renewable energy sources. Yet despite these efforts, Vermont has already experienced negative consequences from the uncertainty that surrounds the extension of this tax credit.

I frequently hear the success stories in the renewable energy industry coming out of Vermont, and from industry leaders there about the exciting new projects they are developing.  But this summer, the stories have been different.  One such company, NRG Systems in Vermont, has been a global leader in wind measurement.  The company’s CEO, Jan Blittersdorf, and her team of dedicated employees take great pride in delivering precise, reliable and proven wind measurement and turbine control equipment.  Jan is an industry leader who has been recognized as a “Champion of Change” by President Obama and who has been praised for her renewable energy work and efforts to advance the role of women in the green energy sector.

During the recession, as jobs were being cut in many sectors across the country and in Vermont, NRG bucked the trend by hiring new workers, and the company continued to innovate and look for ways to grow their business. Today, you can find their products in more than 144 countries. Now, however, due to the uncertainty surrounding the extension of the Production Tax Credit, companies like NRG are putting new projects on hold, and for the first time in its 30 year history NRG Systems has been forced to lay off workers—a devastating prospect for a business in a rural state that has prided itself on its ability to adapt to changing market conditions and its strong support for its workers.

These are skilled and dedicated employees losing vital domestic jobs. American workers cannot afford a delay in the extension of the production tax credit. At a time when manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas, the wind energy sector has done the opposite: it has added manufacturing jobs here in America. Wind energy companies, like NRG Systems, are entrepreneurs who are doing the kind of groundbreaking work that drives our economy.

We have a chance to invest in jobs for America, rather than subsidizing the oil industry to the tune of billions of dollars every year.  Our continued dependence on fossil fuels ensures that we will have more of the extreme weather events that have long been a predicted consequence of global warming, such as the drought that is devastating our Nation’s farmers this summer and the terrible flooding from Hurricane Irene last summer.  It is time to say goodbye to the Big Oil tax subsidies and usher in a new era of wind energy.  The benefits are clear: wind energy has propelled a sustainable and domestic energy source, increased jobs for Americans, and strengthened our domestic energy security.

These are jobs we cannot afford to lose. In Vermont, and for the wind industry across the country, NRG Systems is the canary in the coal mine—an early indicator of the crisis that the wind industry is headed toward if the Production Tax Credit is not extended. This crisis is something we have seen every time this tax credit has lapsed. Each time the Production Tax Credit has been allowed to lapse, revenues in the wind industry fall precipitously, businesses shutter their doors, and workers lose their jobs. There are ways to avoid this catastrophe. 

We must continue the Production Tax Credit now or we will most certainly cede these jobs to other countries. I urge all Senators to join me in supporting these important credits. They support American jobs, American companies, American ingenuity, and American energy security.  We should extend the Production Tax Credit for wind and continue America’s leadership in this growing energy sector.

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