County approves Calumet tax abatement

County Commissioner voted unanimously during their Aug. 23 meeting to approve a new or expanding industries tax abatement for Calumet Montana Refining’s renewable fuel conversion project.

The abatement is established under state law and allows the company to be taxed at 50 percent of its taxable value for five years with equal increases in each year thereafter until reaching 100 percent of the taxable value of the expansion is reached in the tenth year.

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This tax abatement includes the conversion of the existing hydrocracking unit to a renewable diesel unit; construction of a new green hydrogen plant; conversion of the existing hydrotreating unit to co-process kerosene, diesel and gas oil; modifications to the crude distillation unit; reconfiguration of the tanks, pumps, piping, etc. including construction of new tanks and facilities; modification of the plant rail system; and modifications of the plant utility systems.

Commissioner Joe Briggs said that the county already had a tax abatement in place for Calumet when they installed the hydrocracker several years ago but since they’ve created a new separate taxable entity for the renewable diesel project, the Montana Department of Revenue discovered that the hydrocracker was being taxed under both entities.

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Briggs said that Calumet hadn’t been able to use the hydrocracker at full capacity so they were converting it for the biodiesel project.

Briggs said that DoR will be adjusting the county’s taxable values with a reduction since it had been taxing the hydrocracker twice.

He said he didn’t know what the net impact would be on taxable values but that they’d go down. The county hasn’t adopted its budget for the current fiscal year yet or the countywide values or those for the city or school  district, so they won’t have to redo them like they did last year when DoR adjusted the values.

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Brett Doney of the Great Falls Development Authority said that they support the project.

Two people spoke in opposition to the renewable fuels project itself.

Briggs said the project will use crops that aren’t typically food products such as grapeseed and canola, which can be grown alongside or in rotation with wheat.

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He said he’s been told the biodiesel product won’t have an impact on diesel engines and that California’s initiative to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels is driving the push to renewable fuels.

The City of Great Falls’ Commission also approved a tax abatement for the renewable fuel project.