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Starbucks, Ben & Jerry's join lobby push for wind credit

By Zack Colman
The Hill
Businesses that support wind power are turning up the pressure on Congress to extend a tax incentive for the industry before it expires at the end of the year.

Businesses that support wind power are turning up the pressure on Congress to extend a tax incentive for the industry before it expires at the end of the year.

Nineteen businesses outside the energy sector signed a letter sent Tuesday to congressional leaders that argues the 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour incentive for wind power production “lowers prices for all consumers, keeps America competitive in a global marketplace and creates homegrown American jobs."

The letter was signed by 19 businesses, including Ben & Jerry’s, the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, Starbucks, Symantec, Yahoo!, Levi Strauss & Co., Johnson & Johnson and Sprint. Many of the companies involved are members of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, an arm of the business sustainability firm Ceres.

Wind power companies are lobbying furiously to save the wind credit and say they will have to lay off thousands of workers if it is allowed to lapse.

The credit has become part of the battle over energy policy in the presidential race. President Obama wants to keep it alive, while GOP nominee Mitt Romney would end it as scheduled because he views it as meddling in the marketplace.

Amy Hargroves, Sprint's manager of corporate responsibility, told The Hill that "progressive" businesses like the ones that signed Tuesday's letter believe in the benefits of green energy. She said the firms felt the need to weigh in to counterbalance companies that have spoken out against the incentive.

"From my perspective, there’s been a greater organized effort against supporting this, so they’ve been far more vocal," Hargroves said. "We need our voices to be heard. We think it’s important to have more green energy choices in the U.S."

She said axing the incentive would make it difficult for Sprint to reach its self-imposed goal of getting 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2017.

Hargroves said Sprint and other businesses plan to escalate contact with lawmakers about passing an extension of the credit in the coming weeks.

“I think corporations tend to have influence in politics, and we intend to help," Hargroves said.

Room to maneuver on the incentive exists in both chambers, with the incentive stalled along with a mix of other tax provisions.

The wind incentive, which expires Dec. 31, is included in a $205 billion tax extenders package that passed the Senate Finance Committee in August. Senate leadership, however, has yet to call the bill on the floor.

The House Ways and Means Committee is set to meet this week to discuss expiring tax credits, which include the wind incentive.

The final fate of the credit is unlikely to be decided until after the Nov. 6 election, when Congress is expected to grapple with the expiring tax provisions in a lame-duck session.

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