Dave McGee contributed to this article.
As the annual inversion makes its return, the issue of pollution has once again become a topic of discussion on Capitol Hill. However, the idea of incentivising the investment in pollution control devices is a relativity new one here in Utah. The primary way the state has chosen to go about this was to provide tax credits to those companies that chose to purchase or upgrade pollution control and mitigation equipment.
However, there was a problem with how the state chose to implement this new policy. The assumption made under current law is that the Utah State Tax Commission is in charge of tracking and honoring tax exemptions with the Department of Environmental Quality, telling the Tax Commission what exactly qualifies as a “pollution control device.” In reality, however, both state agencies have had a difficult time finding a smooth way to make the process work – due in no small part to the vague nature of how current law is written.
It is for this reason that Representative Ryan Wilcox (Republican – Ogden) is proposing HB 31 – Pollution Control Amendments. The look of the bill itself speaks to the need to tear-down and rebuild, taking the many varied good ideas scattered throughout Utah Code and reconstituting them into a more cohesive unit.
The bill, if passed, would create the Pollution Control Act and more clearly define tax exemptions related to pollution control, and place rule-making authority firmly with the Air or Water Quality Board, depending on the nature of the pollution control.
The bill also does something very interesting for those who currently have, or wish to have, the tax benefits associated with installing newly certified pollution controls. One section of the law states that a pollution control would still be “certified” even if the facility has shutdown or has been found to be obsolete. This would mean that even if equipment is sub-standard or non-functioning, property owners would still have a pass when it comes to paying certain taxes related to the pollution facility.
The time frame of this would be relatively short – the tax exempt status only lasts for three years, but it is still quite possible (though improbable) that pollution control facilities will sit idle or broken and companies would still be able receive these tax brakes. The state’s new policy appears to take the position that something is better than nothing.
Most, if not every, company using the tax breaks provided by HB 31 would be using pollution controls in their facilities, and the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee gave the bill a nod of approval. If the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Air or Water Quality Board chooses to use industry standards in determining what qualifies as a pollution control, it appears that this legislation would clean up the process of applying – not to mention the air we breath, the water we drink, and the land we live on.
To contact Representative Wilcox, click here or call 801-200-5595.
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker