Senator will continue to advocate for Production Tax Credit Extension

Senator Patty Murray from Washington State had a first-hand look at the wind energy business from a port perspective. She toured the Port of Longview on August 18 and received an eye-opening tour of a storage yard filled with massive wind tower sections awaiting transport to wind farm projects across the nation.

She was accompanied by port commissioners Walt Barham, Dan Buell and Larry Larson, as well as port director Ken O’Hollaren, business development manager Valerie Harris, and local 21 longshoreman Jeff Davis.

The senator’s focus was to learn just how the Production Tax Credit (PTC) impacts the wind energy business in her state. In a short presentation, Mrs. Harris pointed out that the Port’s overall volume in this commodity has increased since it started handling wind energy cargo in the summer of 2003. The Port handled 80 towers in 2003, compared to nearly 300 towers this year.

‘In 2007 we anticipate handling roughly as many or even more towers than this year,’ she said. Each tower consists of three sections. Every ship that delivers the towers creates local jobs for longshore workers and support industries. ‘The Local 21 longshoremen’s union has developed a reputation for handling the towers with kid gloves,’ said Jeff Davis. ‘Over 1,500 tower sections have been handled without damaging one,’ he said.

Business beyond next year may depend on whether Congress extends the PTC, a law that allows investors to claim a federal income tax deduction for every kilowatt of electricity generated by their wind farms. The tax break expires at the end of 2007, raising concerns among Port officials that the jobs and revenue created by imports of wind components will go bust.

‘It’s a promising new business,’ port director Ken O’Hollaren said. ‘But there’s no assurance it will be here for the long-term.’ Congress let the PTC temporarily lapse in 2004, causing the Port’s business to drop off, but it picked up again in 2005 when the credit was revived.

Senator Murray says she believes Congress will look favorably on extending the tax credit and said she will continue to advocate for it. ‘It moves our country to where it needs to be in terms of energy independence,’ she said. Her support for environmentally sound energy policies such as federal tax incentives for alternative energy sources such as wind is well known.

Wind energy cargo handling continues to be a critical component of the Port’s book of business. ‘Passage of the PTC, set to expire in December 2007, is the main obstacle facing the wind industry today,’ Harris said. ‘If it were to be extended, it would significantly reduce the ‘boom vs. bust’ business climate and stabilize badly needed economic benefits’such as jobs’for our local economy,’ she said.

Senator Murray’s visit points out the important role ports play in the wind energy industry, and how passage of the PTC will affect local economies. The Port may be the entryway next spring for towers destined for a Washington State wind farm planned by the local PUD and four other public utilities. The project highlights the partnerships, jobs and investments made possible by the current PTC.