The Utah State Legislature looks like it is prepared to pass a bill that will give EnergySolutions a $1.7 million break in inspection program fees to help the company remain competitive.
House Bill 169, Commercial Waste Fee Amendments, passed the House on Feb. 5 with a 61-11 vote. The Senate Business and Labor Committee passed the bill out of its committee with a 6-0 favorable recommendation.
HB 169 directs the Legislature to fund the annual inspection program fee from the state’s general fund, in lieu of taking the funds from EnergySolutions “existence tax,” according to Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman, sponsor of HB 169.
EnergySolutions’ “existence tax” consists of a radioactive waste tax based on the type and amount of low-level radioactive waste accepted at EnergySolutions’ Clive facility in Tooele County’s West Desert.
In 16 years, EnergySolutions has paid $300 million in existence taxes. The existence tax is above and beyond property tax, sales tax, income tax, and other fees, according to Knotwell.
The existence tax goes into the state’s education fund. To keep from impacting education revenue, the bill calls for the expense of the inspection program to be paid out of the general fund. The bill contains a provision that if the Legislature fails to fully fund the inspection program, EnergySolutions will be required to pay the fee.
HB 169 will help keep EnergySolutions competitive, according to Knotwell.
“A neighboring state has reduced the tax cost on one of their [EnergySolutions] competitors by 50 percent,” he said.
Reps. Doug Sagers, R-Tooele, and Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, supported HB 169 during the floor debate on the bill in the House.
Sagers described EnergySolutions as an “exceptional corporate citizen.”
HB 169 would not impact education revenue and shift the burden to taxpayers, according to Nelson.
“It is a bill that brings the cost of regulation down to the market level where EnergySolutions can continue to compete with facilities around the country,” he said.
During the Senate Business and Labor Committee’s hearing on HB 169, Jessica Reimer, policy associate with the Healthy Environmental Alliance of Utah, spoke against HB 169.
“HEAL and its 20,000 supporters do not believe shifting the regulatory costs of businesses onto taxpayers is good public policy,” she said.
Passed out of the Senate Business and Labor Committee with a 6-0 favorable recommendation on Feb. 12, HB 169 is waiting to be considered by the full Senate.