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Utah Democrats 'Dismayed' By Proposed Tax Breaks To Oil And Gas Industry After Scathing Audit

Stock photo of an oil pump jack in eastern Utah.
In considering potential tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, Utah lawmakers are weighing economic benefits against the responsibility to hold companies accountable.

Utah democratic lawmakers are “dismayed” by the advancement of a bill giving tax breaks to the oil and gas industry. 

The Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Interim Committee voted to take up the bill one day after the state released a scathing audit of its oil and gas division. The audit found the division has allowed more than 100 noncompliance cases to go unresolved and is not forcing cleanup of contamination at waste disposal sites. The Alliance for a Better Utah has called for the director of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining to resign.

Sen. Ronald Winterton, R-Roosevelt, is sponsoring the tax cut legislation and said he wants to incentivize oil and gas companies to bring their operations to Utah. The tax breaks are estimated to cost the state nearly $49 million in lost tax revenue by 2030. 

“They had asked me to help them in some kind of relief to make up the difference in transportation costs to get their product to outside markets,” Winterton said.

But the state’s audit made some democrats wonder if the industry deserves these tax breaks. 

“It does look like really lax oversight,” said Rep. Carol Moss, D-Salt Lake City, who voted against the bill. 

Moss said she knows bringing in more business to rural areas can help the economies there, “but at the same time, we need to hold these companies accountable.”

Winterton has been working on the bill since before the audit came out, and he still wants to move forward with it. 

“There is never a right time,” Winterton said, “but if it's the right thing to do, you do it.”

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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