Chevron wants tax credit for roadwork

Chevron’s interest in applying for a tax credit for a $23 million contribution to road reconstruction near De Beque has raised election-season allegations that the public is being asked to fund a “Road to Nowhere.”

In a letter Friday in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Carbondale resident Nancy Smith voiced that concern, saying the county would have to pay back Chevron for work on County Road 204.

That’s not true, said County Commissioner John Martin, who is up for re-election and was targeted for criticism by Smith.

Instead, Chevron is interested in a program that offers a little-used state severance tax credit for such projects. Under the program, a company can seek a tax credit of up to 50 percent a year, until the credit catches up with the contribution, Martin said.

Martin said the county has agreed not to object to Chevron requesting the credit, but it’s also his understanding the state Department of Local Affairs never has approved such a credit retroactively.

The project is expected to cost about $25 million, and Chevron has agreed to contribute $23 million up front because the road accesses its natural gas interests outside De Beque. Chevron spokesperson Kristi Pollard said the company has no idea whether it will pursue or receive the tax credit, but it wanted to keep the option open in its agreement with the county.

Smith said she’s happy to hear county taxpayers won’t be on the hook for the tax credit. But she still sees the situation as akin to the formerly proposed federal earmark for what became known as Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere.” She thinks the tax credit could be better used for other projects that benefit more than one company.

That view is shared by Democratic Garfield commissioner candidate Steve Carter, whom Smith endorsed in her letter. Smith is running against Republican Mike Samson to replace retiring incumbent Larry McCown. Martin, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Stephen Bershenyi.

Carter said he supports use of the tax credit where it has broad-based, public benefits. But he said there are other cases in the county in which energy companies pay for work on roads that they affect, and they don’t seek tax credits.

“It’s a cost of doing business, and it’s the right thing to do,” Carter said.

Pollard said Chevron recognizes its responsibility to upgrade a road that it uses daily, which is why it agreed to make the contribution, with no guarantee of getting a tax credit.

Martin sees the agreement with Chevron as a big benefit to local taxpayers, and one that takes care of energy-related impacts at their beginning.

“If we don’t do it, then we’re criticized for not doing it. We are in a no-win situation,” he said.


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