BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I return to the Senate floor to pick up where I left off when Congress adjourned 1 month ago and that is to continue with my daily efforts to urge this Congress, our Congress, the House and the Senate, to extend the wind production tax credit. I rise before the Senate to discuss an industry that has created tens of thousands of good-paying jobs for American workers and has contributed billions of dollars--literally billions of dollars--to our economy.
I think the Presiding Officer knows this, and all our colleagues should know this: This is an industry that will be in grave trouble if we in the Congress don't act soon--I actually mean immediately--to extend the wind production tax credit.
We return this week to Congress in the wake of really sobering news about recent layoffs of American workers in our wind industry, largely due to our congressional inaction on the wind production tax credit.
I want to be very clear: The wind industry has already begun firing American workers because we have failed to extend the wind production tax credit. It is that simple. You ask: Why? Well, the PTC has been a driver of the wind industry's enormous expansion in the United States, as well as the growing investment in American workers that we have seen in the last several years. This critical tax credit expires at the end of the year, and if we do not vote to extend it, manufacturing facilities may shut down, thousands more Americans will lose their jobs, and the negative economic ripple effect--this is not a positive ripple effect; this is a negative ripple effect--will be felt in communities all across our Nation.
Now, let me be clear in a further way. It has already happened; this is not conjecture. In my home State of Colorado, workers who had good-paying jobs in the wind industry just a month ago when I stood here no longer do. That is right. Over 100 Coloradans were let go of their jobs in the Colorado wind industry just in the last month. There are more job losses projected to follow. That is sobering to all of us.
On a more upbeat note, I come to the floor to talk about the production tax credit, and each time I have come to the floor I focus on a particular State because there is good news all across our country when it comes to wind energy. Today I want to focus on Vermont where the wind industry has grown faster than in many larger States. As a matter of fact, Vermont has the second highest rate of new wind installations of any State in 2011, growing over 650 percent. That is right, 650 percent growth in Vermont.
Vermont has numerous installed wind projects and wind manufacturing sites throughout the State that currently power over 11,000 homes and enough wind power potential to provide 160 percent of the State's current electricity needs.
One of America's leading wind energy production companies is NRG Systems, which is based in Chittenden County, which is up in the northwestern corner of Vermont. For 30 years, NRG Systems has been a fixture in Vermont's energy and technology industry, and it serves the wind industry in particular by providing developers, utilities, and turbine manufacturers with the tools they need to measure the wind. But with the looming end of the PTC, NRG's future growth in Vermont is uncertain.
This is very clear because for the first time in their history, NRG has had to lay off workers in Vermont, not once but twice this year. Their very capable CEO, Jan Blittersdorf, described these firings as ``deeply unfortunate, though necessary ..... to preserve our future in the face of a deeply unstable wind-energy industry.''
NRG's orders are off 50 percent from just a few years ago because of our inaction. The uncertainty about wind energy's future has encouraged them to look overseas for new opportunities, which then means we hasten the departure of good-paying jobs for skilled American workers who already are ready to go.
So the point I am trying to make--and I see my colleague from Vermont has joined me; I look forward to hearing his remarks--the wind industry needs certainty. NRG is an example of a company that needs certainty. We can lead the world in sustainable, smart energy, but we have to extend the PTC to stay on track.
As I have said for all these weeks I have been coming to the floor, this is not just about my home State of Colorado. I love my State of Colorado. I think we are the best State in the Union. But our country at large is threatened by the broad losses of jobs if we do not extend the production tax credit.
I am not going to stand by idly and observe the outsourcing of American jobs. I do not want to cede the leadership in the clean energy future to any of our foreign competitors. That is why I keep coming back day after day to urge my colleagues to work with me to pass the production tax credit.
It is pretty simple. The production tax credit equals jobs. We ought to pass it as soon as possible. It is common sense. We have support from both sides of the aisle.
I mentioned my great friend, Senator Sanders. He has joined me. I also want to mention the esteemed chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the senior Senator from Vermont, Senator Sanders' colleague, was unable to join us this morning, but he is a strong supporter of the PTC, and he will be making a statement as well.
So let me close by urging all of us, as soon as possible, to extend the wind production tax credit. Let's not let party affiliation or partisan politics interfere with what is right. Without the wind PTC, more Americans will be out of work, and we will have further neglected our duty to pass commonsense policies that help American workers build a better future for themselves and their families. Every day we do not act is a day that more companies like NRG Systems in Vermont are forced to lay off workers in our country. These companies are then looking overseas for better opportunities. That is just flat-out unacceptable.
Mr. President, I conclude. I want my colleagues to know I will be back on the floor tomorrow to talk further about this opportunity but also this threat. I will be back to talk about jobs, our economy, the need for America to lead in the clean energy space, and the need for Congress to take action today.
I thank the ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore for his attention.
Again, I want to acknowledge the great leadership of my friend from Vermont. I look forward to hearing his remarks on this important production tax credit.
With that, I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT