SALT LAKE CITY — A bill has been introduced in the state Legislature that is designed to increase the number of vehicles in the state running on alternative fuels — specifically compressed natural gas (CNG).
Senate Bill 275 would establish 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 governing body would consist of an individual from the executive branch of the state government, a member of the Senate, a member of the House of Representatives, a person from the Utah Association of Counties, someone from the Utah League of Cities and Towns, an individual employed by a school district in the state, someone appointed by the public transit district and an individual employed by a gas corporation in the state.
It would also direct 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.
The commission would be required to report the results of its proceedings, including any conclusions and recommendations, to the governor, the Legislative Management Committee, and the Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee by Sept. 30.
“This bill will jumpstart the process of making it easier to finance, build infrastructure and convert an entire fleet to alternative fuel vehicles,” said Sen. J. Stuart Adams, who introduced the bill and is its chief sponsor.
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.
Another component of the bill is to provide a cost recovery mechanism for a gas corporation that pays for natural gas fueling stations and related facilities.
According to Adams, the Utah Public Service Commission currently oversees a program that allows Questar Gas to assist homeowners in making their homes more energy efficient by financing home insulation. Senate Bill 275 proposes a similar program aimed at assisting in cleaner transportation processes in the state. Questar would be allowed to assist agencies in converting their existing fleets into CNG vehicles, and maintaining CNG facilities and infrastructure as part of their utility function.
During a press conference on Monday that was held on board a CNG-powered school bus, Gov. Gary Herbert called for everyone to do their part to improve Utah’s air quality. He urged state and local government, schools, public transit and businesses to transition more of their fleets to clean fuel vehicles.
“Utah should lead out in creating policies that promote fleet conversion to clean burning vehicles and improved air quality,” Herbert said, adding that the result will be “reduced emissions, not just on inversion days, but every day.”
He also spotlighted Senate Bill 275 as one way to reduce heavy vehicle and fleet emissions.
As of Thursday, the bill was on the Senate calendar for a second reading.
This isn’t the first time that Herbert has supported clean air efforts in the state. In 2011, he declared September “Idle Free Awareness Month,” and the declaration cited the success of Utah’s school bus idling reduction program as an example for the rest of the state.
A video from Monday’s press conference on Senate Bill 275 is below.