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Vestas continues layoffs in Brighton as tax credit lingers

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DENVER — Vestas, the largest manufacturer of wind turbines in the world, laid off another 80 Colorado employees from its plant in Brighton Friday, just four weeks before Election Day.

A Vestas spokesman says it’s a direct result of Congress’s failure to extend the Production Tax Credit for the wind energy, which is due to expire at year’s end, and a subsequent drop in orders for the wind turbines built at plants across Colorado.

Vestas has no laid off about 200 workers in Colorado and more layoffs are likely later this week at the company’s facility in Windsor, according to a report in the Greeley Tribune Tuesday.

Vestas has announced plans to lay off some 3,700 workers worldwide by the end of the year.

Both of Colorado’s Democratic senators issued statements following the layoffs Tuesday again calling for the extension of the tax credit, which could still come as part of some larger bipartisan agreement by the lame-duck Congress after the election.

“Today’s news of additional layoffs at Vestas is extremely disappointing because they could have been prevented had Congress acted to pass the wind PTC,” Bennet said.

“If we let the credit expire, the wind industry, as well as thousands of jobs in Colorado and tens of thousands more across the country, will take a devastating hit. The wind PTC enjoys bipartisan support and is an economic driver that is critical to jobs and a clean and diverse energy portfolio in this country.  It should be extended, and it should be extended immediately.”

Udall, who’s given 19 speeches in support of the PTC extension on the Senate floor, echoed Bennet.

“My colleagues need to remember that good-paying, American manufacturing jobs are at stake when we fail to give this industry the certainty it needs to make long-term investments in its workers and the United States,” Udall said. “We need to redouble our efforts and extend the PTC as soon as possible. Our inaction is hurting Colorado families, ceding our leadership on wind energy to China and jeopardizing our nation’s energy security.”

Three of four Colorado Republicans in Congress support the extension of the PTC, but Mitt Romney came out against it earlier this summer, arguing that the government should stop “picking winners and losers” by over-subsidizing new energy industries.

The League of Conservation Voters ran a week’s worth of advertising attacking Romney for that stance last week that featured a worker from Pueblo who was laid off by Vestas earlier this summer.

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who stood in for Romney at a debate of campaign surrogates Tuesday morning that focused on energy issues, argued that the $4 billion in tax breaks for the five biggest American oil companies isn’t comparable to the government funding the Obama administration has provided to solar and wind manufacturers.

“Per megawatt hour, natural gas, oil and coal received 64 cents in subsidy,” said Owens, citing a Wall Street Journal editorial. “Wind got $56.29 and solar a whopping $775. For every tax dollar that goes to oil and gas and coal, wind gets$ 88 and solar a whopping $1,212.

“And those aren’t subsidies, those are deductions. They’re for the cost of doing business.”