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Senate coronavirus bill lacks renewable energy, airline emissions provisions

Although the U.S. Senate has not yet released to the public the latest version of its coronavirus response package, the bill reportedly does not contain clean energy tax credit extensions or other relief provisions hoped for by some in the industry.

The Senate early on March 25 reached a deal on a third package of legislative measures addressing the coronavirus outbreak, but by afternoon, lawmakers were still fine-tuning the proposal. If passed, still unknown is whether the House will approve the proposal, offer amendments or submit its own version.

The trade organization representing the wind energy industry said it was dismayed that the bill did not include relief for the clean energy sector, asserting that the industry needs assistance to protect 35,000 jobs and $43 billion of investment.

"Relief provisions ensuring renewable projects can secure financing and meet safe harbor continuity schedules are critical to preserving a strong domestic clean energy sector," said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. "Making these adjustments to existing tax credits would provide the industry the flexibility needed to accommodate COVID-19 delays, without costing the federal government any additional money."

READ MORE: Sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter here, and read our latest coverage on the crisis here.

The coronavirus started disrupting renewable energy supply chains as equipment suppliers dealt with impacts from the outbreak that could delay deliveries. Wind companies are also under pressure to begin construction on new facilities by the end of the year to qualify for federal tax credits.

The solar industry praised certain provisions of the bill, however, such as its inclusion of long-term unemployment insurance, business loans, and support for employee retention and protections. The solar sector could lose half its jobs, affecting 125,000 families, said Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper in a March 25 statement.

"Economic stimulus legislation can help our companies sustain families and invest tens of billions of dollars into the economy over the next couple of years," Hopper said. "We fully expect to work with Congress on any broad economic stimulus package. This will ensure that when this awful chapter in America's history comes to an end, the clean energy economy is well-positioned to lead our nation's economic recovery."

The final Senate bill will likely differ materially from a March 23 proposal developed by House Democrats, a 1,404-page bill that included numerous environmental measures. The $2.5 trillion proposal included provisions requiring mandatory climate change disclosures and airlines receiving federal funding to slash emissions, as well as funding for sustainable aviation fuel research and development.

While the Senate bill includes $58 billion in federal aid for the U.S. aviation industry, many of the environmental protections Democrats proposed were cut, Reuters reported.

Senators took to the chamber's floor over the last several days, spotlighting the national emergency and tearing into the opposing political party for certain provisions. Republicans blasted Democrats repeatedly for delaying action, while Democrats insisted the negotiated bill was a significant improvement from versions discussed over the weekend.

Notably, the negotiated Senate bill did not include $3 billion for the Trump administration to purchase domestic oil to fill up the nation's reserves. Democrats had described such funding as a "bailout for big oil," while U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the administration was seeking to take advantage of low oil prices.