Bipartisan Lawmakers Representing Nearly 200 Million Americans Unite Against Solar Tariff Case
Thursday, May 19 2022
The Commerce Department’s baseless solar tariff investigation is front and center in the news, and political leaders are stepping up to protect their constituents and voice opposition.
In letters to President Biden, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are urging the Department of Commerce to unfreeze the solar industry and immediately end the Auxin Solar tariff probe. In a telling sign, these lawmakers represent 190 million Americans, or 57% of the U.S. population.
The letters from 20 governors, 22 U.S. senators, and 85 members of the House of Representatives strongly rebuke the Commerce Department’s decision to take up the self-interested petition of a single solar company and upend a thriving $33 billion American industry. The investigation could result in additional tariffs of up to 250% on solar products from Southeast Asia, which currently account for 80% of panel imports to the United States. Even without a single finding of wrongdoing, widespread damage has begun.
The tariffs could even be retroactive and apply to solar imports as early as fall 2021. This means that American solar companies don’t know if they’re going to be stuck with a 250% markup on the panels they purchase today. The latest data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) finds that at least 318 solar projects have already been delayed or cancelled, representing 52 gigawatts of lost clean energy deployment.
Solar supports local economies in all 50 states, so it’s no surprise that elected officials are taking notice. Letter signatories include conservative governors and senators from states such as Indiana and Kansas, as well as staunch climate advocates from Massachusetts and California. In total, 35 states have at least one elected official calling on President Biden to expedite a preliminary decision in the case. More than half of all states have a statewide official sounding the alarm.
In such a tumultuous and politically divisive time, it is significant that leaders across the political spectrum are uniting to defend the U.S. solar industry. That’s because there are no winners in this case. According to SEIA’s analysis, the solar industry could lose 18,000 manufacturing jobs — the sector both the president and the petitioners are trying to support — if this case continues. The investigation threatens $52 billion of clean energy investment and could permit an additional 364 million metric tons of carbon to be emitted by 2035, equal to that of 97 coal plants.
What these numbers translate into are lost jobs and lost opportunities in cities and towns across the country.
• In Hawaii, which aims to reach 70% clean energy by 2030, a developer pulled out of two major solar projects that would have provided power to tens of thousands of homes after untenable price increases.
• In New Mexico, the state’s largest solar installation company downsized its workforce, with layoffs accounting for “a significant portion” of its utility-scale business.
• In Arkansas, the chairman of the state’s Public Service Commission lambasted the investigation for making it impossible to build alternatives to natural gas despite high fuel prices, leaving few options to reduce energy costs for ratepayers.
• Finally, in Indiana, the shutdown of a coal-fired power plant is now delayed until 2025 because solar projects intended to replace it are stalled, meaning years of additional pollution will be released into the surrounding community.
The Commerce Department must act quickly and ahead of its August timeline to prevent these impacts from snowballing. Substantial precedent exists in this case, allowing the Department of Commerce to quickly issue a negative preliminary decision and dismiss Auxin’s baseless and inaccurate claims.
SEIA is calling on President Biden to listen to the 127 lawmakers representing nearly 200 million Americans who see this case for what it is — a dangerous attempt to dismantle the U.S. solar industry.
It is past time for the Biden administration to step up and put an immediate end this meritless case.