Tax credits for riding rural rail

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Tax credits for riding rural rail

Date: 04/12/2024     Category: News & Media     Author: Charles Ashby     Publication: The Daily Sentinel    

Original Post  ➡️

Image by Sly from Pixabay

A bill working its way through the Colorado Legislature not only could help boost economic development in counties impacted by dwindling coal production, but also help spur more passenger rail on the Western Slope.

While Senate Bill 190 focuses on Moffat County and the northwest corner of the state, it applies statewide, meaning that areas like Delta County could benefit, too, said Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Frisco.

The bill provides up to $10 million in tax credits to companies that use rail lines either for freight or passengers, and calls on the state’s relatively new Rural Opportunity Office in the Office of Economic Development & International Trade to work with local officials to find new ways to use rail lines that are being used less and less to transport coal.

“The provisions empowering the Rural Opportunity Office to work with communities on business development and more communities being Rural Enterprise Zones applies to the whole state,” Roberts said.

“As the region’s state senator, prioritizing economic opportunity and resources for transitioning communities is a top priority,” he added. “Further, representing all the communities that would be served by mountain passenger rail from Craig to Winter Park … this bill does both.”

Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steam rises from the Craig Station just west of Craig, as seen from an EcoFlight tour in February 2022, of the Yampa Valley. Officials are bracing for the closure of the station and the Colowyo Mine that supplies it in 2030, and what that means for the economy of Craig and Moffat County, which has been reliant on the coal industry.

Roberts said he hopes the bill would attract large employers to such places as Craig and Hayden, along with hundreds of potential new jobs. He also hopes to one day see a regular passenger rail line operating between Craig and Denver, with numerous stops in-between because it would help boost tourism. Lawmakers east of the Continental Divide are separately working on a similar passenger rail line along the Front Range.

The bill, which cleared the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week, would offer tax credits to new businesses that choose to locate in coal-transition counties such as Moffat and Delta, and use rail normally used for coal trains to transport their freight.

Those credits wouldn’t be available until 2026, two years before the Craig Station coal-fired power plant is scheduled to close, which will end the need for rail lines now used to deliver that coal. Over the next several years, the Colowyo Coal Mine also is to close in stages over the next several years as a result of the planned closure of that and other coal-fired power plants.

The measure would be funded through another bill that draws from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The bill, which also has the support of Sen. Perry Will, R-New Castle, has to clear the Senate Appropriations Committee before going to the full Senate. After that, it would need approval in the House, where it is being sponsored by Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, and House Speaker Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat, with Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, as a co-sponsor.