SALT LAKE CITY — Last Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law a bill that that is designed to increase the number of vehicles in the state running on alternative fuels — specifically compressed natural gas.
Senate Bill 275, which took effect upon the governor’s signing, establishes a governing body to facilitate conversion of fleets to alternative fuel vehicles, or to facilitate the construction, operation and maintenance of facilities for these types of vehicles.
The bill also directs the Public Service Commission to initiate and conduct proceedings to explore opportunities for advancing and promoting measures in the state that would result in cleaner air. For example, the commission would look into the potential funding options available to pay for the enhancement and expansion of infrastructure and facilities for alternative fuel vehicles, and the most effective ways to overcome any obstacles in converting to alternative fuel vehicles.
“This bill will jumpstart the process of making it easier to finance, build infrastructure and convert an entire fleet to alternative fuel vehicles,” Sen. J. Stuart Adams, the bill’s chief sponsor, said when it was introduced.
Adams added that the bill’s primary objective is to improve air quality across the state, but it also aims to strengthen Utah’s economy by reducing the state’s dependence on foreign oil.
Murrell Martin, pupil transportation specialist at the Utah State Office of Education, told SBF that he believes the new law will provide a framework for school districts to move toward alternative fuel options for school buses.
“Each school district will need to look carefully at all the different options to determine what makes sense for the size and location of their fleets,” he said. “I believe the net result in decades to come will be the savings of millions of dollars on fuel costs as well as creating greater value of school buses in the eyes of numerous residents of the state of Utah.”
Martin also noted that he has been impressed with how numerous organizations and agencies were able to come together and determine what it will take to move toward alternative fuel vehicles in a significant way in Utah.
“We had an opportunity to host an alternative fuels symposium back in January with Gov. Herbert’s Energy Advisor Cody Stewart as our keynote speaker, and he offered great perspectives,” Martin said. “We have found the governor’s office, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the Utah Office of Energy Development and the Utah Clean Cities Coalition to be very good to work with in looking at possible ways to open up opportunities for local school districts. We have also found our bus and engine manufacturers to be very good to work with as we pulled the alternative fuels symposium together. We would like to continue facilitating opportunities for discussions.”