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Health, Science & Environment

Senate Approves Incentives For Cleaner Gasoline

Dan Bammes
Senators support a tax credit for refineries that install equipment to reduce the sulfur from their gasoline by two-thirds. The cleaner gas is expected to help improve Utah's air quality dramatically.

Senators cleared the way Thursday for Utah refineries to get millions of dollars worth of tax credits for installing equipment to remove pollution-forming sulfur from gasoline.

Sponsoring Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, says his bill would get cleaner fuel in Utah gas tanks sooner. He called the incentive good for economic development and the single biggest move this year towards improving air quality.

“If we’re serious about cleaning up the air,” he said in his floor pitch to fellow senators, “this bill does that.”

Combined with new federal clean-car standards, the clean fuel standards are expected to cut pollution so much in northern Utah that it will be like taking four of every five cars off the road.

Federal law doesn’t require Utah’s five refineries to make and sell what’s called “Tier 3” fuel locally, but the refineries produce about 80 percent of the fuel used in the state. The remainder comes from Wyoming refineries that are required under federal law to make fuel that’s Tier 3 clean. Okerlund says now the Utah refineries will upgrade, too, thanks to the tax credit.

“Each of the refineries we’ve talked to say this makes a difference for them: ‘We will move, and we will move quicker now that this incentive is in place’,” Okerlund told reporters after the 23-to-1 vote.

The bill’s critics say refineries should do the right thing without incentives. But supporters argue the future economic payoff will offset the state’s costs.

Okerlund says his bill has solid support in the House, where it’s headed next.

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