Boulder, CO

Increased Boulder climate tax would increase bills for households

Matt Whittaker
Car and home in Superior destroyed by Marshall Fire.State Farm / Flickr

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver

(Boulder, Colo.) Increased worries about wildland blazes after last year’s Marshall Fire in Boulder County prompted the city council to increase its proposed climate tax in a move that would eliminate a reduction in household climate spending.

Currently, the city’s taxpayers contribute around $4 million yearly via climate-related taxes. But some of that will expire in 2023 without action. 

So Boulder wants to replace the existing taxes with a new one. The initial proposal was for a minimum climate tax of $5 million. But last week council members unanimously moved forward an ordinance that would set the minimum for the new tax at $6.5 million.

The original proposal would have charged businesses more and residents less. But under the new proposal, the current $42.95 residential rate would rise to $49.66. The prior proposal had that cost decreasing to $38.20.

Under the new proposal, commercial customers would see an increase from $292.42 to $487.37, and industrial customers’ tax would jump from $1,084.11 to $1,806.85.

“The original target for the new climate tax of $5 million was developed in late 2021/early 2022 during a period of time when staff, community and council were just starting to face the stark reality of wildfire risk after the Marshall Fire,” according to city staff commentary accompanying the ordinance.

“It became clear that in addition to continuing to prioritize efforts to stabilize climate through aggressive emissions reductions, the issue of climate-related resilience, especially in the context of wildfire, has become an urgent citywide need and priority,” the staff said.

The extra $1.5 million could go toward grant programs for home and business projects that reduce wildfire risk, such as vegetation removal, roofing and siding replacement and fence reconstruction. A dedicated fire-rescue team focused on wildfire mitigation is also in the cards, as well as burying power lines in risk prone areas.

The council must pass the ordinance before the proposed climate tax can be added to the November ballot for general voter approval. The next step is a public hearing on Aug. 11.

The city tax, which would be collected on Xcel Energy bills, is separate from sales tax increases the Board of County Commissioners is considering to pay for emergency response and wildfire mitigation. Public hearings on those tax increases are scheduled for Aug. 4.

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Matt Whittaker writes about natural resources industries, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, agriculture and cannabis. He's been based in the Denver metro area since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @mattswhittaker.

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