Business will be taxed for carbon emissions

May 21, 2008 7:32:00 PM PDT
The agency that monitors pollution in the Bay Area has voted to impose a new fee on the businesses they regulate. Some will pay big and others not so much.

The Bay Area Air Quality District took an unprecedented step to charge the businesses they regulate.

It may be surprising to find out how much most businesses and gas stations will be required to pay for carbon emissions. It's only $1 or less a year. It's not much, but supporters say it's an important first step.

"If you reduce your emissions, you will reduce the fee, and that is what the ultimate goal is," says Pam Torliatt with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

What the air quality board did on Wednesday has never been done anywhere in the nation. They imposed a new business fee at the rate of 4.4 cents per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted.

The big oil refineries will pay the lion's share. For example the annual fee for Shell will be more than $195,000.

Dennis Bolt represents petroleum companies. He sees confusion between the Bay Area plan and a historic state law which calls for reducing global warming gases by 25 percent by 2020.

"It is not about the money. It's about the business uncertainty that has now been raised in the state," says Bolt, from the Western States Petroleum Association.

His organization is not ruling out a lawsuit over whether the air quality board even has the authority to impose the fees. The directors insist they do.

Supporters like Linda Weiner of the American Lung Association believe this is a first step toward a healthier environment.

"Yes, there will be a modest fee to industry, but the bigger cost is to do nothing. To say, the planet and the healthcare system," says Weiner of the American Lung Association.

The following are some examples of what some businesses can expect to pay each year.

  • United Airlines: a little over $5,035
  • PG&E power plant in San Francisco: more than $13,725
  • Anheuser-Busch in Fairfiled: just over $1,858
  • Guadalupe Rubbish Disposal Company in San Jose: $1,388

    The majority of businesses are expected to pay much less. Gas stations will pay perhaps $1 and a large bakery maybe $85 a year.

    Mike Shimansky was the only director on the board to vote against the new fee system, which he calls a tax.

    "It's a small amount now. Next year it'll be raised and the year after that. It's like the camel getting his nose in the tent and pretty soon the whole camel will be in the tent," says Shimansky, a Bay Area Air Quality Management District board member.

    Well that carbon tax takes effect on July 1, 2008 and will generate about a million dollars for the district which says they'll defray the cost of climate protection programs.


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