WASHINGTON A group of U.S. lawmakers said on Wednesday that they plan to push ahead in the new year to change the tax code so renewable energy projects could qualify for beneficial tax structures commonly used by pipelines and other energy-related companies.
Democratic and Republican sponsors of proposed legislation said they think momentum is growing for their idea to allow wind, solar, biofuel and other renewable projects to structure as "master limited partnerships" (MLPs).
The structures allow companies to raise money in the stock market, while having income taxed only at the unit holder level, thus avoiding corporate income taxes.
"Small tweaks to the tax code could attract billions of dollars in private sector investment to renewable energy deployment," the 29 lawmakers said in a letter to President Barack Obama, asking for the administration's support.
Their proposals come as Congress looks for ways to boost government revenues and cut spending to deal with the U.S. debt, and ahead of an anticipated push for comprehensive tax reform in 2013.
Some Democrats have said they want to get rid of tax breaks for oil and gas companies, while many Republicans have criticized temporary tax incentives for renewable energy.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said all types of energy would gain if the MLP tax structure, widely used by fossil fuel companies, is extended to renewables.
"It does not take anything away from oil or gas or pipelines, as some other proposals would do," said Coons, who sponsored proposed legislation in the Senate with Republican Jerry Moran of Kansas.
"Why not have a predictable, clear, long-term tax advantage financing vehicle for both, for a genuinely all-of-the-above energy strategy?" Coons told reporters.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, has signed on as a cosponsor.
In the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, a companion bill is sponsored by Ted Poe, whose Texas district is home to refineries and pipelines, as well as Democrats Mike Thompson of California and Peter Welch of Vermont.
"We need everything," Poe said, explaining why he supports a plan to boost renewable energy.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)