By Sam Wilson, Helena Independent Record

ABusby lawmaker is proposing legislation intended to let Big Horn County negotiate a collection agreement with a troubled coal company that owes more than $8 million in delinquent taxes to the county.

The proposal has the backing of county officials and Navajo Transitional Energy Co. (NTEC), which bought the debt-saddled Spring Creek Mine from its bankrupt parent company last year. But some Democratic lawmakers and at least one environmental group have warned that the bill could allow NTEC or other companies to ultimately pay less than they owe.

Senate Bill 154, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jason Small, doesn’t specifically name NTEC or Big Horn County. But Small, the Big Horn County commissioners and a company representative were clear that the legislation was drafted with its unpaid coal taxes in mind.

“It’s allowing the company, which took over the obligation of the taxes on that transaction, to set up a payment plan with the county,” Small told the House Taxation Committee during Tuesday’s hearing on his bill.

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