Wyoming accelerates natural gas vehicle, filling station plans

2012-10-16T21:30:00Z 2013-04-05T18:38:04Z Wyoming accelerates natural gas vehicle, filling station plansBy ADAM VOGE Star-Tribune energy reporter Casper Star-Tribune Online

A state legislative committee pledged support for two bills Tuesday which, if passed, could go a long way toward making Wyoming a leader in alternative fuels.

Meeting in Casper, the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee first passed a measure that would slowly transition up to half of the state’s vehicle fleet to run on compressed natural gas by 2017. The second measure amends a state loan program to include compressed natural gas-related incentives.

Outgoing legislators Sen. Kit Jennings, R-Casper, and Rep. Jim Roscoe, D-Wilson, presented a bill drafted by their subcommittee to the main group Tuesday. The committee voted to sponsor amended versions of each bill, meaning Jennings or Roscoe won’t have to drive the bill forward.

Members of the committee said they hope the two measures will help create a stronger market for the cleaner and cheaper fuel, which could save the state and private parties money. The fuel sold for an average price of $2.15 per gallon equivalent Monday.

“I think these two bills are an attempt to get beyond the chicken and egg problem we have with natural gas as a transportation fuel,” Roscoe said.

The first of the two bills requires that state departments and school districts buy CNG-fueled models — either the CNG-fueled or the bifuel option — at least half the time when replacing vehicle fleets, so long as the municipality where the vehicle is stationed has a CNG fuel pump active or expected to be active within six months.

Rep. Mike Greear, R-Worland, expressed concern with the six-month time frame, saying that construction projects often fall behind schedule.

Jennings said in response that the bill’s allowance of bifuel vehicles — which allow the driver to choose between CNG and gasoline —would remedy the problem.

“As the market develops, you could say CNG only,” Jennings said.

The original bill would have required affected state departments to exclusively buy CNG-fueled vehicles. Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, and others said they would prefer phasing in the vehicle shift slowly rather than requiring a such a quick change.

“I’m thinking we ought to phase this in,” Bebout said. “Let’s walk before we run.”

Greear proposed adding a 50-percent amendment, and the measure passed.

The committee also added a sunset provision, meaning the bill will be terminated unless renewed by July 2017.

The legislative committee voted later in the day to support a second bill that could also help the CNG industry take hold in Wyoming.

The group will sponsor a bill which amends a state challenge loan program to allow borrowers two payment-free years in projects to build CNG pumps around the state.

Ben Avery, business and industry division director of the Wyoming Business Council, said the loan program has a sterling track record.

“Our collective losses over the last 12 years are less than interest gained from any one given year,” he told the committee. “We’re going to make sure that any applicant is able to repay any debt for installation of natural gas fueling stations.”

Fueling stations will be able to borrow up to $1 million to construct the new fueling stations.

The fuel has yet to take off in Wyoming. There are only four public stations in the state, with three more planned. The Wyoming Natural Gas Vehicle Infrastructure Coalition, an industry and nonprofit-led group, wants to set up 12 more Wyoming stations.

The committee first formed the CNG subgroup at an August meeting after an industry presentation touting CNG as a cheaper, cleaner alternative to gasoline.

The Legislature has appropriated funds for CNG vehicle development before. In 2011, the state gave $200,000 for state fleet conversions. Shawn Reese, policy director for Gov. Matt Mead, said Tuesday that the conversions are almost complete. The legislation has also shown support for conversions and a filling station at the University of Wyoming.

Mead has declared support for the fuel, signing a memorandum of understanding in November asking automakers to manufacture affordable CNG vehicles. Last week dealers around the state committed to selling CNG trucks and vans — which can run either solely on the alternative source or a combination of CNG and gasoline — to the state for fixed prices.

But whether the new bill will pass is in question. A measure introduced by Roscoe last winter subsidizing the creation of CNG pumps failed.

Jennings said Tuesday it’s important for the state to adopt and to use the new technology.

“Somebody’s got to build these filling stations,” he said. “Until we start to build these things and use them, a lot of this technology won’t be used.”

Reach energy reporter Adam Voge at 307-266-0561, or at adam.voge@trib.com. Read his blog at http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/boom or follow him on Twitter @vogeCST.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(2) Comments

  1. rigrat
    Report Abuse
    rigrat - October 17, 2012 9:50 am
    This is not some new concept. Many of us had our pickups running on propane years ago before the cartels raised the propane prices so high. Before I get attacked on this subject, I know there is a difference in propane and CNG,but the concept is similar.
  2. billy
    Report Abuse
    billy - October 17, 2012 6:03 am
    This is awesome! and I say about time. I believe that CNG is the transition fuel of a future where we don't need other peoples oil at all. The only things we should be using gas or diesel for should be planes/trains/military/maybe large truck, everything else should go CNG and then down the road go electric. Solar/wind/wave/geo-thermo (electric) has got to be the future for fueling the US. Then we should stop the nuclear power plants so we can stop poisoning the planet with spent fuel, I would rather see power plants run on clean coal and/or CNG. If all this comes to pass our kids and grandkids have a chance. If they build a CNG station in casper my family will switch to it. Awesome!! Someone is thinking.
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