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October 18, 2017

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Nevada lawmakers make progress with energy initiatives

WASHINGTON -- The tax bill and the federal budget are proving to be politically intractable enough that they might keep Congress around town until Christmas — but in the meantime, Nevada lawmakers are scoring some pretty solid successes in the energy arena.

Dean Heller succeeded in his push to get a renewal of geothermal royalties, to be paid to counties, back into the federal budget, which passed the House earlier this week but which the Senate has yet to approve.

“Western states lose substantial taxes and revenue opportunities because of the vast amount of federal lands,” Heller said in a statement released earlier this week. “Ensuring these royalties will continue to be distributed is critical to our local communities and state.”

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget had determined earlier that counties would be ineligible for geothermal revenue sharing payments in 2011 because the fiscal 2010 budget, of which the House used the framework to replicate as a resolution for the rest of the fiscal year, did not include them. That language, however, was fixed later in 2010, and the fix to the House’s continuing resolution reflected that change.

John Ensign, meanwhile, is still pushing Senate appropriators to make sure they include the geothermal fix in the omnibus funding package the Senate is expected to take up sometime next week.

“The elimination of the counties’ share of geothermal revenues placed heavy burdens on these mainly rural counties ... this impacted their ability to provide basic public services,” Ensign said in a statement.

“Geothermal pays for itself,” Ensign added in comments made later last week, saying he was confident the correction would be made.

On the Dems' side, meanwhile, Harry Reid and Shelley Berkley have been lobbying hard to get a helping hand for Nevada’s solar energy industries worked into the tax bill.

The Section 1603 program, which allows solar and wind companies to convert research and development tax credits into hard cash grants was not included in the original tax framework the Obama administration sent to Congress earlier this week — despite being the administration’s own creation under the stimulus bill of last year.

Republicans have pushed hard against perpetuating anything divined under the stimulus.

But on 1603 — also known as the Treasury Grant Program, or TGP — several Democrats believe there should be an exception.

Berkley has signed a letter from House Republicans urging an extension of the Treasury Grant Program — for two years, just like the framework envisions for the full roster of Bush-era tax cuts.

“Due to economic conditions, a large gap persists between the total amount of financing renewable energy developers need and the money available in the market,” the letter, obtained from Democratic sources, reads. “The TGP fills that gap.”

What’s made it into the bill that stands now though is a one-year extension — reportedly due to an extra-hard pushback Reid made in negotiations to ensure that the 1603 program would be extended, intact, into the coming year.

“The success of this program in promoting renewable energy development is unquestioned,” said Reid spokesman Tom Brede.

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