A bipartisan group in the Senate has introduced a bill to extend the 50-cent/gallon alternative fuel tax (AFT) credit for 2018 and 2019, drawing praise from the natural gas vehicle (NGV) sector, which has pushed for the extension.

The tax credits are considered a key to increasing NGV use by U.S. fleet operators, according to NGVAmerica President Daniel Gage.

The credit “benefits consumers and fleets of all sizes -- both public and private -- allowing operators to make needed investments in cleaner NGVs with more certainty," Gage said. He added that converting a Class 8 diesel truck to a Class 8 ultra-low nitrogen oxide (NOx) NGV truck is the emissions reduction equivalent of taking 119 gasoline-fueled vehicles off the road.

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) "will extend a host of expired tax provisions demonstrating foresight and commitment," Gage said. The senators' work to include the credit in their tax package "recognizes the importance of consistent federal tax policy.”

Meanwhile, Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) on Tuesday launched its latest effort to help California fleet operators purchase near-zero emissions heavy-duty NGV trucks. Fleets within the four-county South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) in the Los Angeles area may apply for incentive funding from the gas-only utility with up to $100,000 grants. Funds are to be distributed on a rolling basis until all money is awarded, a spokesperson said.

SCAQMD’s Carl Moyer Program helps fleets pay for switching to alternative fuel vehicles, and said thus far 8,000 tons of NOx, and 232 tons of particulate matter (PM) have been reduced annually. Last year the Moyer program was expanded to include fueling and charging stations.

"The further expansion of compressed natural gas (CNG) stations across the state is a crucial step in the transition to near-zero emission NGV trucks," said the SoCalGas spokesperson. In the last two years SoCalGas customers have received funding to replace more than 250 diesel trucks.

"Incentive programs are vital tools to help California reduce emissions and can help the state reach its established climate goals," said SoCalGas Vice President Sharon Tomkins, who is responsible for customer solutions and strategy. SoCalGas also has been pushing for  renewable natural gas (RNG) use in conjunction with the near-zero emissions NGV engines.

In other news, Chicago-based Amp Americas' Renewable Dairy Fuels (RDF) unit is expanding its biogas production to 5 million gallons/year. RDF has expanded RNG production by 30% at its Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana where the Amp unit operates the nation's two largest cow waste-to-transportation fuel projects in the nation. Fair Oaks alone can produce more than 2.3 million gallons/year of RNG from dairy waste.

A second RDF biogas production operation in Jasper County, IN, that came online last August is the largest RNG producer. The RNG from Fair Oaks is injected into the local Northern Indiana Public Service Co. gas utility pipeline system.

"We've made revolutionary progress in our carbon reduction and renewable energy efforts," said Amp CEO Grant Zimmerman, whose company operates a network of 20 national CNG fueling stations.