The Senate Site 3 clean air victories from the #utleg

3 clean air victories from the #utleg

Posted in 2012, 2013, Featured on Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 at 5:55 PM 1 Comments

Three Clean Air Victories from the 2013 Legislature
Published in Utah Policy Daily, on 3/26/13

By Stuart Adams
State Senator, District 22, and
Senate Majority Whip

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first CNG station.  – Lao-Tzu (+/-)

Geography and human activity makes bad air a seasonal reality here along Utah’s Wasatch Front.  In the 2013 Legislative Session we passed three bills to address the problem.

Here’s a rundown:

SB 275 – Air Quality Amendments

The biggest culprit of our bad air problem is tailpipe emissions. 56% of all air pollution comes from the tailpipes of the cars you and I and use every day.  The biggest emitters are the big vehicles. A bus or semi-truck emits the same amount of carbon monoxide as 15-20 gasoline powered cars. If that bus or truck uses natural gas, the pollutants are cut by over 90%.

In a four-pronged approach, SB 275 creates opportunities for Utah to expand natural gas infrastructure and increase the use of compressed natural gas.

First, SB 275 provides a way for school districts to convert their busses to CNG. It costs about $30k to convert a bus from diesel fuel to one that is CNG-capable. Once the bus is converted, however, the school will save over $15,000 in fuel costs each year. So, conversion costs are recouped in less than two years, but the up-front cost is still prohibitive. SB 275 allows special service districts to bond for the cost of refitting busses and be repaid over time by the savings.

Second, in addition to converting busses, the bill allows Utah to band together with other states to make bulk purchases of factory produced CNG vehicles as our state fleets are replaced. This will help not only with emission reduction but also with the budget, because the new vehicles will be nearly 50% less expensive to run than the state vehicles we now own.

Third, SB275 will help fund the construction of more natural gas fueling stations that will be available to state fleets, school districts, commercial vehicles, and private consumers. This is an essential element.  Many commercial trucking companies would love to convert their trucks, but there are not currently enough fueling stations to make it feasible. Finding and building convenient locations for CNG fueling stations is critical to expanding the use of natural gas, and subsequently depleting the pollution in the air.

Fourth, the bill facilitates financing or bonding to build maintenance buildings for the purpose of general repair, to keep CNG cars, trucks, and busses running.

Some people have criticized SB 275, saying homeowners and businesses will end up subsidizing the new stations and bus conversions.  One critic’s blog headline said, “Questar rates set to soar.”  Let me offer some numbers; Questar estimates an increase of about 8 cents a month for the average customer, likely amounting to about 96 cents per year.

SB 275 does not move the mountains, but is does initiate some big steps in the right direction.

In addition, two more bills we passed this year will help clean the air.

[UPDATE 8/1/2013]: Here’s a piece from Judy Fahys at the Tribune on the first meeting of the Alternative Energy Interlocal Entity Board created in this bill.

HB 96 – Cleaner Burning Fuels Tax Credits Amendments and Related Funding

We budgeted $2.85 million dollars this year for tax credits for those who operate alternative fuel vehicles. If you purchase a new electric or hybrid vehicle before the end of 2014 you will receive a $605 tax credit. If you convert an existing vehicle to natural gas or purchase a factory built CNG car or truck, you can apply for up to $2500 in tax credits through the end of next year.

HB 168 – Air Quality Mitigation by Government Entities

This legislation asks school districts and state agencies to look at their current efforts to reduce emissions, and then submit a report on how they intend to implement further emission reduction strategies in the coming year. Plans may include things such as flexible work schedules to reduce driving during peak times, telecommuting, teleconferencing, encouraging ride sharing or the use of public transportation, using alternative energy sources or using more recycled products.

By asking agencies and school districts to look at internal ways to help reduce the emissions, providing help for districts to convert their busses, increasing the size of the state’s natural gas fleet, and providing more fueling locations for natural gas vehicles, Utah is taking significant steps toward cleaning up winter inversions.

Some say we did nothing to clean up the air this session.  They are wrong. Thanks for paying attention.




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