Colorado Senators React To Controversial Solar Tariff

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – An impending tariff on solar panels could cost thousands of jobs in Colorado.

President Donald Trump has called for the tariff in order to “save jobs.”

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(credit: CBS)

Colorado’s U.S. Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet say any tariff or tax on imported solar panels would do just the opposite.

Cheap imported panels have lead to an explosion in the solar installation industry, which is where the vast majority of solar jobs are.

There are less than 20 solar panel manufacturers in the U.S. and thousands of installation companies.

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(credit: CBS)

If the president imposes a tariff, the industry says, the price of rooftop installations and solar farms would double, causing demand to plummet.

“Which would set the industry back by two years and would lose potentially one third of Colorado’s workforce around solar,” said Taylor Henderson, with the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association.

That group represents more than 400 solar companies in the state, which employ some 6,000 people.

The tariffs, Henderson says, could eliminate 2,000 of those jobs and cost Colorado’s economy up to $580 million.

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CBS4’s Shaun Boyd talks with Taylor Henderson (credit: CBS)

Henderson suggests it’s a turning point for the industry.

“I think people should care about the opportunity that we hold in our fingertips.”

Gardner and Bennet agree. They signed a letter with a bipartisan group of senators opposing the tariffs.

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Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner (credit: CBS)

The price of solar energy in Colorado has dropped 65 percent in the last five years because of the drop in the cost of solar panels.

“So basically, it could have sort of an inverse effect by making it difficult for the U.S. to afford the expansion,” said Gardner, “We have to make sure we’re on the right side of that equation — adding jobs, expanding solar not the opposite.”

As a Republican who chairs the Energy Subcommittee, Gardner had a message for the president.

“He’s done a great job talking about keeping American jobs in America. This gives him a chance to actually keep those jobs here,” said Gardner.

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Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet (credit: CBS)

Bennet says the solar tariff is even worse in light of the president’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

Gov. John Hickenlooper also signed a letter opposing the tariff.

The International Trade Commission will vote on whether to recommend the tariff the end of this month.

The president’s decision is expected by January.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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