Senate passes clean-fuel tax incentive

First Published      Last Updated Mar 06 2017 02:02 pm

Bill would broaden an exemption for refineries that produce fuel that officials say can reduce emissions.

Utah lawmakers are hoping a $1.8 million tax break is enough to entice refineries here to produce cleaner-burning fuel.

Senators on Friday voted 24-1 in favor of SB197, which broadens a sales tax exemption for refineries that move toward production of tier-3 fuel, a classification of fuel based on strict emissions standards.

Generating tier-3 fuel within the state, bill sponsor Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said, is "probably one of the most important things that we can do to improve our air quality."

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said that most of the fuel used by Utah drivers is produced within the state at refineries located in Salt Lake and Davis Counties.

If Utah drivers were able to use tier-3 fuels, he said, the change in air pollution would be the equivalent of removing four out of every five cars off the road.

"This is a huge step in that direction," Weiler said. That statistic is confirmed by state air-quality officials, using Environmental Protection Agency estimates that, once fully implemented, the cleaner fuel would reduce emissions by 80 percent overall.

SB197 originally called for a $60 million tax break for Utah's manufacturing industry, but was substituted after lawmakers questioned the optics of giving tax relief to corporations while lawmakers debate a possible increase in the sales tax on food.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, had argued against the original bill — and tax incentives in general — but said Friday there was merit in encouraging refineries to invest in clean fuel production.

"This one is a great temptation," he said.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, cast the lone vote opposing SB197.

The bill will now advance to the House for consideration.


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