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Wind energy empowers America

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 11:13 a.m. CDT

Momentum is building to extend expired tax provisions that lapsed Dec. 31.  Of the 55 expired tax breaks on the table, wind energy incentives are among those left hanging. 

I’ve been working to build bipartisan, bicameral and regional alliances to secure a victory for America’s 21st century clean energy policy.  So far, 144 lawmakers are standing together to support wind energy in the tax extenders package.

We’re pressing leaders in the House and Senate to prioritize extensions of the job-creating investment and production tax credits for wind energy. 

This federal tax policy has helped to launch a carbon-free energy source and diversify America’s portfolio of homegrown, alternative sources of energy. 

The tax credits have helped to support 85,000 U.S. jobs; trigger $105 billion in private sector investment; reduce the carbon footprint by displacing carbon-emitting energy with clean generation wind energy; and harness an inexhaustible source of affordable, domestic electricity for consumers.

Opponents of wind energy tax incentives argue the industry doesn’t need any government support, yet there are plenty of tax policies for various industries that have been on the books for decades longer than those for wind. 

If one measure is on the table for potential removal, all of them should be on the table.  Everything deserves consideration on its merits, and wind energy stands up to scrutiny.

Technology, tax incentives and private investment work to strengthen the renewable energy sector’s position in the free marketplace and power America’s carbon-free energy policies forward.   Over the past few decades, wind energy in the United States has changed the economic and energy landscape with nearly 900 utility-scale wind projects on the nation’s electricity grid and more than 550 wind-related manufacturing facilities.

Wind farms and/or factories have cropped up in all 50 states, putting people to work in good-paying jobs, diversifying farm and ranch income with an organic, drought- and weed-resistant cash crop, revitalizing rural communities and creating pollution-free electricity for millions of homes and businesses across the country.  Iowa leads the nation in wind-generated electricity, at 27.4 percent, powering the equivalent of 1.3 million homes.

It doesn’t make sense to pull the plug on wind energy tax incentives that foster responsible environmental stewardship, encourage entrepreneurs to innovate clean-energy technologies and investors to finance the job-creating infrastructure that delivers clean electricity to America’s homes and businesses.

• • •

Standing with Ukraine

Congress is moving forward with support for Ukraine and authorization for additional sanctions responding to Russian aggression.

The progress on passing this legislation was slower than I would have liked.  Quick passage would have sent a strong, unified message to Russia that there will be consequences for intruding on sovereign land. 

Unfortunately, the bill was unnecessarily delayed over a controversial measure that would have restructured U.S. contributions to the International Monetary Fund.

The Majority Leader ultimately relented and stripped out the controversial language, leading to unanimous Senate passage of the underlying package. The House of Representatives passed a similar measure, and final resolution is expected this week. 

The Senate measure condemns Russian military intervention in Ukraine and reaffirms the U.S. commitment under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which secures the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity and borders of Ukraine.

The measure enhances and extends U.S. security cooperation with central and Eastern Europe, including North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and NATO aspirants.

It includes authorizing the Secretary of State to help Ukraine in identifying and recovering assets linked to corruption.  It authorizes funding for improved democratic governance, transparency, accountability, rule of law, anti-corruption efforts and free, fair elections in Ukraine. 

It also authorizes measures for enhanced security cooperation among the United States, European Union, and countries in central and Eastern Europe. And it directs the President to impose sanctions on individuals responsible for abuses in Ukraine and encourages the same for individuals responsible for corruption in Russia.

Russia has violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence with its illegal annexation of Crimea.  The United States should help Ukraine and other allies protect against the use of force that threatens the independence of sovereign nations.

• • •

Transparency Needed

from Intelligence Agencies

According to a new report I requested from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, federal intelligence agencies aren’t reporting their employees’ non-mission or personal trips on federal aircraft.

The GAO said that the intelligence agencies, like the CIA or FBI, are required by federal regulations to report non-mission travel to the General Services Administration.

These trips are at taxpayer expense even though they are personal or not related to the agency’s mission. So for there to be any secrecy surrounding them only serves to create a distrust of the federal government.

The GAO’s investigation was spurred by a separate report I requested when the agency found that two FBI Gulfstream V jets that were justified to Congress by the FBI as critical to counterterrorism operations were mainly being used for “non-mission” or personal flights.

During that initial investigation, GAO learned that the FBI had made its own determination that, as an intelligence-gathering agency, it did not have to report travel to the General Services Administration.

According to several executive branch documents, senior federal officials who travel on government aircraft for nonmission or personal purposes, except for trips that are classified, are required to report their travel to GSA.

The GAO found that “GSA is not collecting all specified unclassified data as directed, and GSA has not provided a basis for deviating from executive branch requirements.”

In addition, the GAO found that the GSA fails to identify the different agencies that don’t report senior federal travel data as a result of the intelligence agency exemption.

This has the potential to limit the accuracy of its Senior Federal Travel Reports. These reports give information on “the number of trips taken by senior federal officials, the costs of such trips, the number of agencies reporting, and the number and costs of trips taken by cost justification.”

The GAO identified a significant gap that needs to be addressed to ensure transparency and verify that federal agencies are following current regulations.

The intelligence agencies need to be held accountable. Transparency brings accountability and may just save the taxpayers some money.

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