To the editor:
Last week the editor wrote about the separate worlds Marion County exists in — one set of rules for normal working citizens trying to support themselves, their families and community and another for well-connected entities able to operate with special benefits and rules.
The editor cited health care and public services, but there is a much more glaring example of this double standard: the TC Energy Corp. and its Keystone Cushing Extension/XL pipeline, which runs 36 miles north to south through the county.
Estimated to cost more than $1.5 million per mile to construct, not including pump stations and boring costs for going under the Cottonwood River, the pipeline may very well be the single most valuable piece of property in Marion County.
TC Energy, a publicly traded Canadian corporation, reported revenues exceeding 13 billion Canadian dollars in 2018.
Shortly before construction began in 2010, it was discovered that the pipeline going through six Kansas counties north to south received a 10-year property tax abatement from the Kansas Legislature.
Marion County’s legislative representatives at the time, State Senator Jay Emler and Representative Don Dahl, supported and defended the abatement.
Meanwhile, Marion County first responders had to be ready in case of a spill. Public roads were used for pipeline maintenance, and law enforcement helped in cases of pipeline property violations. All are tax-supported services.
Marion county citizens stepped up to pay while TC Energy, a large foreign corporation, got a 10-year free pass.
In 2021, the property tax exemption will end, and Marion County will get its first tax payment — due in December, like other property taxes.
But the pipeline still will not be treated like other property in Marion County.
Whereas the county appraiser works off of fair market values and agricultural land productivity capabilities, pipeline tax rates are determined by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
FERC determines a per-mile valuation based on the entire pipeline. The Department of Revenue will certify the value June 1. If it is not contested, the amount for property tax to be collected will be forwarded to Marion County.
While the dodging of local taxes by large wealthy corporations is unfair and harmful to those who can least afford it, there is a much more sinister side to the fossil fuel industry.
In the 1970s and ’80s, some of the best research on carbon emissions from fossil fuels and the effects on the atmosphere was funded by ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies.
The research provided some of the earliest information on problems associated with continued unbridled extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
Instead of reacting to the problem, the fossil fuel industry suppressed the research and went on to fund climate change denials that still dominate our divided political and cultural life.
Harry E. Bennett
Last modified Jan. 27, 2021