County assessor’s hopes high for gas equipment audit
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Garfield County Assessor John Gorman is expecting inspections by an Oklahoma company to turn up a significant amount of oil and gas property that isn’t currently being counted for taxation purposes.This month, Visual Lease Services, or VLS, came to the county to help inventory and value equipment related to energy production. This can include well-site equipment, compressor stations, gas plants, pipelines and related field equipment.The county is paying up to $395,000 for the company’s services but county officials believe the investment will pay off by turning up additional property to be included on the county’s tax rolls. “They’re going to find probably significant additional property, not because anybody’s been hiding it,” Gorman said. “We just haven’t gone out and had the time and personnel to pick it up.”He said the reason has been the rapid growth in natural gas development in recent years.”It’s a huge job just keeping track of what they’re doing because this is a massive industry that has come into the county,” he said.Gorman was elected as assessor in November largely based on a promise of seeking to ensure energy companies are reporting the full value of gas production for taxation purposes. Companies produce an estimated $2 billion worth of gas in the county per year. Gorman believes some of them are underreporting production, and that the industry could owe millions of dollars in back taxes.However, his first energy-related focus is on the taxable equipment side. Gorman is seeing through a process begun by his predecessor, Shannon Hurst.Gorman said inspections are expected to continue throughout the summer. He is asking for cooperation by property owners for VLS personnel seeking access for inspection purposes. The personnel will be in vehicles with VLS signs on them and will have Garfield County photo identification badges.Gorman’s office also has been arranging with energy companies for access. He said that’s easier when it involves smaller companies rather than larger ones with more corporate cultures, such as EnCana and Williams Production, the two leading gas producers in the county.”There’s a variety of reasons. They’ve got security issues, they’ve got safety issues, and some of it may be dictated by their insurance carriers,” he said.However, Gorman and EnCana spokesperson Wendy Wiedenbeck said they were confident that issues such as safety training can be addressed and VLS personnel can be given access.”Certainly it’s always safety first, so that would just be part of our safety protocol,” Wiedenbeck said.Gorman recently said he hasn’t forgotten about his campaign pledge to audit the energy industry’s production information and plans to start pursuing that soon. Wiedenbeck said EnCana has had no specific discussions with him about that issue.”I’m aware of his platform and we believe that we do pay the appropriate amount of tax, as we told him when we reached him shortly after he was elected – (and) that we would certainly cooperate as he moves forward with his plans to audit,” she said.She has no complaints with Gorman to date.”I feel like John has been very fair and understanding of our issues and concerns, as certainly we are of his, and we’ll continue to cooperate with the assessor’s office as we move forward,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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