MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer
HELENA Gov. Brian Schweitzer wants property tax breaks as big as 75 percent for “clean and green” energy development and transmission, part of his effort to develop energy resources in the state. Schweitzer unveiled details on the tax breaks Wednesday, which he hinted at during his State of the State Address last week. A leading Republican in the Legislature said he thought the incentive package would receive bipartisan support. Under the proposal, new coal-to-fuel plants that “sequester” the most harmful pollutants will receive property tax cuts of 50 percent from a rate of 3 percent of the taxable value to 1. 5 percent. There currently are no such facilities in the state. To further the incentive for clean energy, new coal gasification plants that don’t sequester carbon dioxide would see their property tax rates doubled under the plan from 3 percent to 6 percent. So-called “renewable” energy sources like wind, solar and biodiesel facilities and equipment would also see the 3 percent to 1.5 percent cut. Pipelines for ethanol, biodiesel and fuel from clean coal technology would get a 75 percent property tax cut from a rate of 12 percent to 3 percent. Similar cuts would go toward electricity lines carrying clean power. Schweitzer said the incentives could help build an industry that would spur Montanan’s economy. He said clean energy is essential if the state is going to tap the power-hungry California market that will not accept energy that puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. “Montana can, and will, lead in clean and green energy for this entire country with our wind power, our biofuels, our solar potential,” Schweitzer said. Rep. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, has long been an advocate for developing the state’s coal resources. He said he has offered to carry some of the governor’s tax incentives through the Legislature. “I think it’s a good start,” Olson said. Olson said the state still needs to streamline the process for getting permits if it hopes to attract big projects. “I’ve always appreciated what the governor has said on energy, but let’s get some of these things going,” he said. Schweitzer said Montana needs to make sure it’s in line to land the projects as companies eye the new technology. “There are going to be a large number of clean and green energy projects across the West,” he said. “In order for Montana to attract these businesses we need to have a competitive inducement.” Legislation for the incentive package is still being written and has not been formally introduced to the Legislature. Last year, Schweitzer announced his Support for a company that has tentative plans to build an electricity transmission line that would carry “green” energy to big energy markets in the Southwest. The line was said to be a key piece to large-scale development of coal-to-liquid fuel facilities one of the governor’s top priorities.