A Salt Lake businessman wants the Legislature to impose an "air-emissions fee" on smokestacks he says are spewing million of dollars worth of untapped state revenues.
John C. Brewer, president of Garb Oil and Power Corp., said the revenue could be captured if the Legislature would impose an "air-emissions fee" on companies that emit large quantities of pollutants into the atmosphere.Such a fee is charged in Southern California, he said, and it produces almost half the annual revenue for the multi-county agency responsible for cleaning up the polluted air in the Los Angeles Basin.
If the same fee were imposed on Utah companies, Brewer said the state would receive more than $29 million additional annual revenue, far exceeding the $1.5 million annual budget of the Utah Bureau of Air Quality.
Burnell Cordner, bureau director, said a possible Utah emissions fee has been discussed for several years, but, he said, "It didn't seem like we had a lot of political support."
Cordner believes public sentiment is changing and the Legislature might be willing to consider it.
The air quality director said an emissions fee is consistent with a widely held belief that "those who pollute should pay for it." And if the fee is set properly, he said it could also act as an incentive for companies to reduce the amount of air pollution they produce.
"It makes a lot of sense to us," Cordner said.
The legislative auditor general recently urged the Legislature to consider a similar fee on companies that generate hazardous waste. Revenues from such a fee could be used to operate the Utah Bureau of Solid and Hazardous Waste and establish a fund to clean up abandoned hazardous-waste sites.
Brewer said he became accustomed to the air-emissions fee while doing business in Southern California and was surprised when he discovered Utah lacked a similar source of revenue. He recently presented his ideas to Gov. Norm Bangerter, but nothing came of the visit.
Bill Kelly, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said emissions fees have been charged in the Los Angeles Basin since 1983. Revenue from the fee is used to fund the district's day-to-day operations and finance research into new methods of reducing air pollution in Southern California.
Companies within the air-quality district are excused payment for the first five tons of pollutants emitted into the air each year. They then pay a certain amount for each additional ton of pollution.