AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- TTexas lawmakers, environmentalists and educators say they're worried tax breaks for refineries could reduce school funding by tens of millions of dollars.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports Valero Energy Corp. has become the first of what could be many companies requesting tax exemptions for installing sulfur-removing devices known as "hydrotreaters" at refineries in the state.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokesman Terry Clawson said 10 tax-exemption requests from Valero and 11 from other firms are pending.
The commission's staff initially rejected Valero's request, finding hydrotreaters did not cut pollution at refineries, but as consumers use fuel from the refineries. However, the rejection wasn't based on that conclusion, leading critics to claim the energy industry's influence could have been a factor.
"With Texas schools already facing cuts of more than $5 billion over the next two years, we cannot afford to allow political maneuvering to bleed even more resources from our children's classrooms," said state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat.
The commission has asked the staff to review the exemptions but Clawson could not say Friday when a final decision might come, the Star-Telegram said.
Bill Klesse, Valero chairman and chief executive officer, has said even with the exemption, Valero would still be one of the biggest taxpayers, or the biggest taxpayer, in all the areas where it has refineries.
School officials say the tax would hit hardest in school districts where refineries are located.