Wind Tax Credit Issue Used To Hit Romney In Colorado

He’s Chris Maese, he used to work at a Vestas plant, and now he’s center stage in the Obama-Romney fight for Colorado.

The League of Conservation Voters said on Monday that it would spend $500,000 airing a 30-second advertisement this week in which the recently pink-slipped Maese says he got laid off from his Colorado wind-industry job “because Mitt Romney and his friends in Congress want to eliminate tax credits for the wind industry.” Here’s the ad:

The reference is to the production tax credit, which offers wind power producers a 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour tax break during their first 10 years of operation – but only if they have the turbines spinning before the end of this year. That’s when the PTC expires.

The wind industry and its backers for more than a year have warned of employment carnage if the PTC isn’t extended. Those warnings appear not to have been overstated, based on the steady stream of layoff announcements we’ve seen in recent weeks.

wind industry jobs, production tax credit

Vestas Towers America, Pueblo, Colo. (image via Vestas)

From the Vestas plant in Pueblo, Colo., to a Siemens factory in Fort Madison, Iowa, companies are pulling back in the face of dwindling orders from developers who are shelving plans for wind farms that won’t make the Dec. 31 deadline.

President Obama, nearly all Democrats and a significant number of Republicans support a PTC extension, but efforts to pass it failed before Congress left town for the election break.

The Romney campaign declared its opposition in late July, and has been getting heck for it in Iowa, where wind power is popular. Colorado figured to be another state where Romney’s anti-PTC stance could hurt him; as in Iowa, support for wind in Colorado is bipartisan, with Republican Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton both in favor of a PTC extension.

“Hard working middle class Coloradans like Chris Maese could still have their wind energy jobs if Mitt Romney had endorsed extending the bipartisan supported wind tax credit,” Pete Maysmith, Colorado Conservation Voters executive director said in a statement. “Instead Romney proposes a 19th century energy plan which caters to his corporate lobbyist supporters and big oil donors that will do little to lead Colorado – and this nation  – towards a clean energy future.”

The Obama campaign highlighted the PTC issue with a presidential visit to an Iowa wind farm and in stump speeches in Iowa and Colorado. This new ad, however, was a product of outside support, paid for by LCV Victory Fund, an arm of the League of Conservation Voters.

When Vestas announced layoffs at its Pueblo factory, which makes the towers for wind turbines, it blamed “uncertainty over whether Congress will extend the production tax credit.” The Denmark-based company said the reduction at its Vestas Tower America plant would amount to 3 percent of its total U.S. and Canada workforce. Various Colorado media reported the layoff toll in Pueblo, where Vestas began making wind towers in 2009, at 90.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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