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Bid to raise Colorado tire fee rolls with punches

Lynn Bartels
The Denver Post
Denver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado “-A proposal to more than double the fee Coloradans pay when they buy new tires and leave their old ones behind has critics fuming that it does little to reduce the state’s enormous stockpile of old tires.

The current state recycling fee of $1.50 per tire would jump to $3.25 per tire, $13 when buying a new set

Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said he understands why people are unhappy with his bill, but he believes Senate Bill 31 is for the “greater good.”

The extra $5 million a year the fee increase would raise would be used for a program of grants for research in renewable energy and other fields and ultimately help create jobs, according to Heath and House sponsor Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley.

The bill requires that some of the money be spent on trying to come up with ways to reduce the tire stockpile, Heath said.

El Paso County, with around 35,000 old tires, has the largest tire stockpile in the nation. Most of the tires are at the Midway tire dump near the Pueblo County line, said El Paso County Commission Chairman Jim Bensberg.

He opposes the bill because he worries that if the fee goes up, more drivers will illegally dump their old tires in vacant lots and fields.

“They’re great, wet breeding grounds for mosquitoes and West Nile fever,” Bensberg said.

“If they catch on fire when you have these grass fires, they burn like crazy and send out any number of toxins and carcinogens. They’re extraordinarily difficult and expensive to extinguish.”

The bill has passed the Senate and a House committee, but it has yet to be debated by the entire House.

Riesberg said the bill is among those that came out of a joint ad hoc committee on job creation appointed at the beginning of the legislative session.

Senate Bill 31 is an outgrowth of the state’s decision in 2006 to contribute $2 million a year for three years to bioscience technology research ” a move that gave Colorado national recognition, Riesberg said.

That funding dries up this year and needs a new source.

David Hiller, executive director of the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, told the House committee that the state contributes “a tiny fraction” of what other states provide to woo renewable energy.

But those contributions, he said, helped cement Colorado’s reputation as a leader in the field.

“If we as a state stop what is already a modest contribution,” he said, “a lot of companies will decide they may want to put their bets on another state and pursue research in other locations.”

But bill critics questioned why the state tire recycling fund should be the source of revenue for the grant program when it appears the money already collected hasn’t significantly reduced the tire problem.

“We’re somewhat flabbergasted. It’s very frustrating,” said Daniel Zielinski, senior vice president of public affairs for the national Rubber Manufacturers Association.

Lynn Bartels: 303-954-5327 or lbartels@denverpost.com


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