Tuesday January 01, 2013 | 02:58 PM

WASHINGTON – Maine’s wind energy industry will continue to receive tax credits from the federal government under the “fiscal cliff” bill approved by the U.S. Senate early Tuesday morning.

But with the Republican-controlled House still weighing the fiscal cliff bill, it’s not guaranteed that the wind power tax breaks – or many other tax credits, for that matter – will be included in the final version.

The Senate bill would extend the Wind Production Tax Credit for one more year, allowing wind energy companies to continue receiving a subsidy of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour. The tax credit officially expired when the calendar flipped to 2013.

First enacted 20 years ago, the credit has been extended repeatedly due to strong bipartisan backing from lawmakers in states – particularly those in the Midwest and West – with sizable wind power industries.

Supporters of the tax credit say it is critical to the expansion of renewable energy in Maine and nationwide. They also point out that the wind power industry was one of the few that grew significantly in Maine during the recession. But opponents view it as federal subsidization of a “green” industry that struggles to compete on its own with other power sources.

As my colleague Tux Turkel wrote in this recent article, the six wind energy facilities operating in Maine reported generating nearly 800,000 megawatts over the past year. At 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour, that would translate to about $17.5 million in tax credits for the facilities in Maine.

Conservative groups as well as critics of the industry have been lobbying Congress to allow the tax credits to expire. The wind energy industry, meanwhile, has proposed a six-year phase out of the federal program.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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