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Ethanol bill passes, but modified

The governor also notified lawmakers Monday he was letting a bill aimed at boosting wind-energy production in Colorado become law without his signature. House Bill 1275, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, changes the method of taxing wind farms from a business tax based on the value of equipment that depreciates over time to a production tax that levelizes the revenue stream to counties over a 20-year period.

DENVER - A bill upping the ante on the sale of ethanol-blended gasoline passed the Colorado Legislature late Monday but not in the form its sponsors wanted.

Final passage of Senate Bill 138 was one of the last issues to get settled before lawmakers adjourned their 2004 General Assembly shortly before midnight. It was the second straight year that the allowable 120-day session ended two days early.

The ethanol bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said strong pressure from petroleum industry lobbyists blocked the version that he and Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, worked on to make the measure palatable to Gov. Bill Owens.

"I'm afraid they may have just given the governor the excuse he needed to veto it," Shaffer said after the House adhered to its position on an earlier version of the bill. "When we came out of the conference committee, we had given the governor the excuse he needed to sign it."

The governor also notified lawmakers Monday he was letting a bill aimed at boosting wind-energy production in Colorado become law without his signature.

House Bill 1275, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, changes the method of taxing wind farms from a... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
DENVER - A bill upping the ante on the sale of ethanol-blended gasoline passed the Colorado Legislature late Monday but not in the form its sponsors wanted.

Final passage of Senate Bill 138 was one of the last issues to get settled before lawmakers adjourned their 2004 General Assembly shortly before midnight. It was the second straight year that the allowable 120-day session ended two days early.

The ethanol bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said strong pressure from petroleum industry lobbyists blocked the version that he and Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, worked on to make the measure palatable to Gov. Bill Owens.

"I'm afraid they may have just given the governor the excuse he needed to veto it," Shaffer said after the House adhered to its position on an earlier version of the bill. "When we came out of the conference committee, we had given the governor the excuse he needed to sign it."

The governor also notified lawmakers Monday he was letting a bill aimed at boosting wind-energy production in Colorado become law without his signature.

House Bill 1275, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, changes the method of taxing wind farms from a business tax based on the value of equipment that depreciates over time to a production tax that levelizes the revenue stream to counties over a 20-year period.

Both renewable energy bills were promoted as spurring rural economic development, especially in northeastern Colorado where several corn-based ethanol plants and wind farms are either in operation or planned.

The ethanol bill mandates that 75 percent of all gasoline sold in Colorado from November through April each year contain at least 10 percent ethanol.

Western Slope lawmakers led the arguments against the bill in the House, claiming ethanol-blended gasoline is not as readily available as along the Front Range.

"The people who are in the business are telling us we do not have the capacity to meet the mandates," said Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez. "Southwestern Colorado gets most of its gasoline from Farmington, N.M. and Colorado law does not apply in Farmington."

The Senate opposition was led by Centennial Republican Jim Dyer.

"This is a way to force you into doing something by a government mandate that is irrational," Dyer said. "It doesn't help the environment; it doesn't decrease dependence on foreign oil; it decreases mileage and performance. At the end of the day, it's a government mandate forcing you to buy something you don't want and don't need."

Gardner said he was disappointed the House rejected the conference committee's work on the measure because it clarified an exemption for West Slope distributors and how the state Labor Department would administer the new standards. It also guaranteed the mandates would not have to be met in any year that the price of a gallon of ethanol exceeds the price of a gallon of regular gasoline.

When the House voted 36-26 to adhere to its position on the pre-conference version, Shaffer had no choice but to have the Senate accept the House version or let the bill die. The final Senate vote was 24-10.

Gardner said he remained hopeful, however, because the bill going to the governor still would delay implementation of the new standard until the price of ethanol falls below the price of gasoline. Ethanol prices recently have soared in the wake of tight supplies while refineries convert from MTBE to ethanol.

"We passed an ethanol bill and hopefully we can talk to the governor and he will realize the significance and importance of renewable energy and sign this bill into law," Gardner said. "There is plenty of legislative record on what we intended the language to mean."

Brophy said confusion over language in the House bill could be the "kiss of death" for the ethanol bill.

"We probably shouldn't be running an ethanol requirement when the price of ethanol is so high right now," Brophy said even though he supported it.

At a news conference last week, Owens said he was reserving his opinion on the ethanol bill until it reached his desk.

"The way I measure that bill is whether or not it has a tendency to increase the price of gasoline and whether the increase is balanced by an improvement to the environment," Owens said. "Right now there is a significant ethanol shortage."

The governor said Monday that he neither signed nor vetoed the windfarm taxation bill because its benefit to the state outweighed concerns over an incongruent tax policy and possible constitutional questions

"H.B. 1275 will allow Colorado to compete in the wind energy market and attract new businesses to the state," Owens said. "This legislation will promote economic growth and further energy development in Colorado."

Questions were raised about the bill's constitutionality because it applies only to new facilities put into production after Jan. 1, 2006. Existing wind farms in Prowers and Weld Counties would continue to be taxed under the old method.

Chicago-based Invenergy Wind, which plans to expand its Spring Canyon facility near the Colorado-Nebraska border at Peetz, argued a change in the method of taxation was needed to lower start up costs.

With the legislature's adjournment, Owens now has 30 days to take action on dozens of bills that won final passage in the final week of the session.

Among them is Senate Bill 114, which gives eastern Colorado's commercialized hog producers more flexibility in the use of so-called "anaerobic" covers to control odor from waste lagoons. The measure was approved only after the livestock industry agreed to pay seven cents a head to increase enforcement of the odor standards that voters approved when passing Amendment 14 in 1998.


 


Source: http://www.journal-advocat...

MAY 10 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2539-ethanol-bill-passes-but-modified
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