Wind power key for Keystone State

Wind energy is powering an “energy revolution” in Pennsylvania and across America, writes John Hanger, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in an op-ed in the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News.

Wind farms in Fayette, Somerset, Blair, Cambria, Tioga, Bradford, Lycoming, Schuylkill, Luzerne and Wayne counties will churn out enough electricity to power the equivalent of 450,000 Pennsylvania homes, according to Hanger, who adds, “All that electricity will be produced without air emissions, water withdrawals from streams or polluted water needing safe disposal.”

Yet despite the benefits that wind power has brought to the Keystone State (4,000 jobs, property tax payments, land rental payments to farmers and other landowners, pollution-free electricity, and more), the industry faces a steep decline in new projects in 2013 due to Congress’s delay in extending the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC).

Writes Hanger, “Anticipating that 2013 will be a bust, some wind companies have already begun layoffs, and thousands more layoffs will follow unless Congress acts soon to extend the [PTC]. In Pennsylvania, the uncertainty of policy has already led to furloughs in Bucks and Cambria counties, with Gamesa announcing layoffs of 165 employees starting in late August.”

Hanger urges readers to (1) contact their Congressperson and U.S. Senators to urge an extension of the PTC and (2) to sign up to buy wind-generated electricity for their homes and businesses: “Every purchase of Pennsylvania wind energy speeds the construction of more wind farms and cuts your pollution footprint. Indeed, switching to zero-pollution wind power is the most powerful action that a family can take to clean the air and water. ”

The PTC provides an income tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of electricity production from utility-scale turbines. It is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress extends it first. A recent study by Navigant Consulting found that extending the Production Tax Credit will allow the industry to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, while an expiration would kill 37,000 jobs within a year.

A House bill seeking to extend the PTC has 109 cosponsors, including 25 Republicans, while a similar Senate bill is cosponsored by seven Senators, including three Republicans.  PTC extension efforts have received the endorsement of a broad coalition of more than 370 members, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Western Governors’ Association. A PTC extension also has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors Association, and the bipartisan Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which includes 23 Republican and Democratic Governors from across the U.S.  A PTC extension has been endorsed by a number of newspapers across the country, including the Houston Chronicle, The New York Times, the Denver Post, the Daily Oklahoman, and the Toledo Blade.

Further endorsements of the wind energy production tax credit.

Tom Gray,