Sustainable Funding – Emitter Fee

Let the voters decide – to tax someone else!

As the Fort Collins City Council continues to wrestle with ideas for closing the enormous annual funding gap between what our planning documents call for and actual tax receipts, all sense of pragmatism has been lost.  No serious consideration of cutting programs nor community expectations has been entertained.  Rather, Council is pursuing various strategies to raise taxes and fees that mask, not resolve, the funding deficit.  Establish new local “sin taxes” on tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana; two new taxes on natural gas use; and, most remarkable, a specific “emitter tax” on two local businesses, Anheuser-Busch and Broadcom.

Collectively and individually, these proposed taxes will make but a small dent in the actual shortfall.  The real purpose is to send a message: even though what you’re doing is perfectly legal, we don’t approve.  Therefore, you must be penalized.

Dialing in specifically on the emitter tax proposal, it’s important to understand the context.  Under the federal Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has instituted a permit system under which stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in excess of 25M metric tons must comply with on-going monitoring and reporting requirements.  A permit comes with considerable cost, not just for the permit itself, but the administrative overhead and ongoing remediation to lower emissions.  In addition, the State of Colorado also puts its hand out for so-called “large emitters”.

There are five large emitters in operation within the growth management area: Platte River Power Authority (Rawhide Power Plant), Larimer County Landfill, Colorado State University, Anheuser-Busch, and Broadcom.  Despite their preference, our City leaders recognize that public entities can’t be taxed locally, so their focus is limited to the private sector.  Remarkably, Council has dismissed the fact these two businesses provide nearly 2,000 well-paying jobs, spend millions every year for municipal services, and tens of millions more in local, county and state taxes.

What Council is pursuing is not only unjustified, it lacks financial sense at its most basic level.  Both companies have not only drastically reduced GHG emissions over the past 10 years, but they are both on track to fall below the EPA reporting threshold by 2030.  In other words, Council will go through the process of establishing a tax to fund a perpetual budget gap through a source that disappears shortly after its implementation.

If there were any genuine concern to reduce GHG emissions within the community, or any sense of equitable treatment, a tax on vehicle usage would be far more appropriate.  According to City data, vehicles produced over 1.75M metric tons of GHG emissions in 2020.  For the same year, A-B and Broadcom reported emissions of 180,000 MT combined.   But it’s not about equity, it’s all about the fact taxing two businesses is relatively straight forward and supports their narrative that corporations are evil.  Besides, why wouldn’t voters prefer to tax someone else to pay for community amenities we clearly cannot afford.


Source: Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce
June 2023 

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