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Texas Lawmakers OK Transportation Triangle

The Texas Senate Thursday passed SB 20, creating a natural gas-fueled vehicle transportation corridor in what is known as the "Texas Triangle." The region encompasses Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

Within the triangle vehicle refueling stations are to be eligible for grants to be awarded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Stations with the capability to offer compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas are to enjoy a preference in grant decisions.

The bill was previously passed by the House. The legislation is aimed at cutting vehicle emissions in the region and boosting the Texas economy.

According to an analysis of the bill, "TCEQ would be required to establish and administer the Texas natural gas vehicle grant program to encourage an entity with a heavy-duty motor vehicle to repower the vehicle with a natural gas engine or replace the vehicle with a natural gas vehicle. Under the program, TCEQ would be required to provide grants for eligible heavy-duty motor vehicles to offset the incremental cost of repowering or replacing the heavy-duty motor vehicle."

Among the proponents of creating the refueling station triangle was the recently formed Texas Clean Energy Coalition, which is led by former Texas state Sen. Kip Averitt, with funding from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (see Daily GPI, Feb. 3).

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. CEO James Hackett, who is chair of America's Natural Gas Alliance, praised the passage of the measure.

"This legislation will foster the development of a Texas Clean Transportation Triangle by increasing the number of natural gas-refueling stations and replacing the heaviest fuel-hungry diesel trucks with natural gas-powered trucks, thus improving Texas' air quality and economy," Hackett said.

"At least 10% of the U.S. transportation sector travels through the Triangle each year, and the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates this number will increase significantly over the next 25 years. Broader utilization of natural gas vehicles in this region can significantly improve air quality.

"Greater use of Texas-produced natural gas also means significant benefits to the Texas economy. The natural gas industry already supports about 1.3 million jobs and generates $177.5 billion to the state economy.

At the federal level, subsidies for natural gas vehicles have recently run in to opposition from some gas consumers. The "New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act," which is known as the NAT GAS Act, was introduced in Congress in April. Competing alternative energy industries quickly complained that it would give natural gas an unfair advantage (see Daily GPI, May 25).

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