Our View: Withholding severance tax revenues punitive

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Editorial Board, February to May 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Karen Massey, community representative
  • Jeff Swoyer, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

There is more than a little irony that in the same week state lawmakers shot down a bill that would make it tougher for Colorado residents to put constitutional amendments on the ballot, a Republican state representative from Sterling pushed forward a bill so punitive and counterproductive that even his own party won’t get near it.

Routt County would be among those hurt by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg’s House Bill 1356, which as originally proposed would withhold mining and energy-related severance tax revenues for counties that “in any way restricted or delayed the ability of an oil and gas producer to” exercise its rights to extract oil and gas.

In other words, Sonnenberg thinks local governments that do anything other than give a blanket green light to energy exploration should be punished financially. In Routt County, that could mean the loss of more than $500,000 each year the county receives in severance tax revenues for coal mining operations. The county deposits that money into its Road and Bridge Department fund and uses it to maintain the rural roads the coal industry relies upon to haul its product.

Fortunately, HB 1356 appears dead on arrival, even with potential amendments that would limit the scope of the bill to counties that place moratoriums on oil and gas drilling. That’s as it should be. But Sonnenberg’s measure — whether a political stunt — underscores the fierce battle playing out in Denver and Washington, D.C., about who has the final say in energy-industry regulation.

We’ve previously advocated for a commonsense approach that allows local governments like Routt County a powerful voice in safeguarding public health and safety within their boundaries. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission currently holds most of the cards when it comes to regulatory jurisdiction, and now, the feds appear poised to jump headlong into the fray. The Obama administration announced Friday proposed rules for oil and gas drilling on public lands, specifically as it pertains to fracking.

With many interests at play and significant money at stake, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sonnenberg proposed such a draconian bill. But what fellow lawmakers like Randy Baumgardner should remind him is that counties like Routt use severance tax revenues to maintain the infrastructure needed for industry to continue to operate. That means that not only is HB 1356 punitive, it’s also counterproductive.

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 11 months ago

Wow, it takes real guts to oppose a bill that is already dead on arrival.

What other things that are not going to happen are opposed by the paper?

Next week is the paper going to oppose Ski Corp developing Sunshine lift area by clear cutting it to make room for a fracking drill site with adjacent crane hunting blinds that is coordinated with the Chamber's new advertising campaign, Steamboat, Ski it, Cut it. Drill it, Shoot it.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 11 months ago

Maybe a paper with journalistic integrity that had the slightest concern about informing the public would have put that over business competition and mentioned that Paulie and crew appear to have opened another newspaper?

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 11 months ago

Sonnenberg is facing an uphill battle even though his idea has some merit. We have some looking to eliminate all resources to take us back to the stone age, but they will also be first in line to claim any available revenue, it's only fair.

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mark hartless 1 year, 11 months ago

That's quite the paradox, isn't it? Opposing energy production while expecting a cut of the revenue it produces.

Damning energy production while having heated homes with light switches and cars in the driveway makes for good "pre-season" practice, I guess. It's kind of like walking around with a bottle in ones hand while railing against the perils of alcohol. Too funny.

I long for the day that the utility companies terminate supply to every person who protests the effects of their energy production. A way of "helping" these good folks "kick the habit".

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