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Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words

February 22, 2010 at 3:59 PM

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Taxing toxins

Posted by Letters editor

Taxing stabilizes general fund, cleans Puget Sound

The editorial opposing a modest increase to the state’s hazardous-substance tax is misguided [“Cleanup tax is toxic,” Opinion, Feb. 18]. The revenue would go miles to help clean up local pollution.

The polluters who manufacture hazardous substances in Washington do real harm to our air and water. In fact, The Times’ darling, the Anacortes refinery — owned by the Texas oil giant Tesoro — is a case in point. It’s facing a new federal lawsuit for failing to test for important air pollutants like sulfur and benzene.

Tesoro argues that a small increase in the tax would put them at a competitive disadvantage, but the company is exaggerating. The tax is applied equally to all petroleum products in Washington and Tesoro’s out-of-state sales go mostly to Oregon, which has no refineries and cannot easily be supplied by California refiners.

An increase in the hazardous-substance tax would help stabilize the general fund in the near term and provide significant funding to clean up Puget Sound over the long term.

— Eric de Place, Sightline Institute senior researcher, Seattle

Would result in job loss

Olympia has proposed tripling the tax collected from the state refineries, but what about the hundreds of good-paying jobs that will be lost if this passes. The refinery near Anacortes will not survive and another in Whatcom County is barely getting by.

It was asked how many jobs this increase would create and the answer was: “70 good-paying street-sweeping jobs.” What about the hundreds of good-paying union jobs that would be lost when the refineries shut down and the net tax revenue to the state will be less than it is today. Therefore, those good-paying street-swiping jobs would never be created!

Don’t think for a moment the refineries won’t shut down. Look at the history. There are only two aluminum smelters left in the state, most mills have shut down and we import our lumber from Canada. The tissue mill in Bellingham shut down and Boeing is building a new plant back East.

So Democrats, why don’t you care about the existing good-paying jobs we already have here?

— Mark Jappert, Blaine

Call oil companies’ bluff

If this is an attempt to get us gasoline buyers to feel sorry for the oil companies, forget it. Tesoro, like all oil companies, made large profits last year and that profit — though still large — has been cut in half. Now they are crying foul over state taxes?

They should be taxed as we should any company doing business in Washington state that might possibly damage our environment. In fact, not selling their product in the state should cause them to be taxed twice as much.

One reason our gasoline is more expensive than the national average is because the refineries in our state don’t sell their products locally. California and Oregon are in deeper debt than Washington because of their inability to tax companies manufacturing products in their state.

Tesoro is lucky to find land and a state willing to let them build a refinery. The cost of moving would lower Tesoro’s profits even more. If the union members want to keep their jobs, maybe they could cut their wages.

— Jim Morris, Renton

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