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Special interests aim to pile onto tax-cut deal, to retain tax credits

Wind power firms, makers of energy-efficient windows, duck hunters, and other special interests are pushing Congress to save – or shelve – some 83 expiring tax credits.

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“We have people being laid off right now, and we expect to see more without fast action on the tax extenders now being negotiated,” says Denise Bode, CEO of American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in Washington.

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One industry’s plea for help, however, is someone else’s opportunity to lobby for restrictions on that aid.

On Wednesday, the American Bird Conservancy, one of the largest bird conservation organizations, wrote key US senators urging that wind-power companies be required to follow federal wind energy guidelines to reduce bird deaths. The organization says the National Wind Coordinating Committee, a collaboration of the wind industry, researchers, nonprofits, and government agencies, estimates that about 3 birds are killed for every megawatt of energy wind power generates per year.

“Since the industry wants taxpayer money to fund construction of wind turbines, American Bird Conservancy thinks the burden should be on them to assure compliance with the law and not have citizens dig into their own pockets to take legal action forcing compliance,” says Robert Johns, a spokesman.

In a statement, AWEA replied, “Wind power does not pose a serious hazard to birds in general. While some birds do collide with wind turbines at most sites, modern wind power plants are collectively far less harmful to birds than are radio towers, tall buildings, airplanes, vehicles, numerous other man-made objects – and cats.”

Other nature organizations are also pressing for tax help. One is Ducks Unlimited, which represents duck hunters and counts on people being able to preserve family farms and ranches.

Ducks Unlimited, as part of a coalition called the Conservation Tax Incentive Coalition, wants Congress to help landowners who want to preserve their land save on their tax bills.

Specifically, they want Congress to allow farmers and ranchers to retire the development rights on their land by donating a conservation easement, which would keep the farm in productive use but guarantee it can’t be sold for future development. In return, the farmer or rancher gets to deduct a larger portion of their income over a longer period of time.

The tax legislation regarding conservation easements has expired. “We need Congress to make these expired conservation easement incentives a permanent part of tax law,” says Barton James, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited in Washington.

As for the Civil War battlefield, the Civil War Preservation Trust is part of the same coalition as Ducks Unlimited. The trust would like to see families such as the Champions in Vicksburg get a perpetual conservation easement on their land in return for a tax break.

“It’s really just another tool in the kit to pursue historic preservation,” says Mary Goundry Koik, deputy director of communications at the trust, based in Washington.

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