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NGVs Make Transportation Headlines Across Country

From commuter buses to cars for commuters, from garbage trucks to power trucks, and from state-owned to city-owned vehicles, developments surrounding the propagation of natural gas vehicles (NGV) made headlines across the country in recent days.

All of the developments follow last Monday's announcement by Chesapeake Energy Corp. that it was establishing a $1 billion venture capital fund to invest in companies and technologies to replace vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel fuel with compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), and gas-to-liquids fuels (see Daily GPI, July 12).

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed two bills on Tuesday promoting the use of alternative fuels in the state, which includes natural gas. He also issued an executive order outlining a 10-year plan to replace thousands of state-owned vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel fuel with vehicles that run on alternative fuels, as called for in one of the bills, HB2282.

"It is important that we pursue all practicable and cost effective options to promote the use of alternative fuel vehicles," McDonnell said. "Increased use of alternative fuel vehicles holds the potential to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, support the expansion of private sector businesses and create new jobs here in the Commonwealth."

Under McDonnell's order, state officials are to begin working on the vehicle replacement plan in August and make a list of final recommendations by next May.

On Wednesday, the City Council of Dublin, OH, approved agreements with four companies that would bring the city closer to using vehicles that run on CNG.

Sue Burness, Dublin's public affairs officer, told NGI last Thursday that the city has received $1.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Clean Fuels Ohio program, as well as $275,000 from IGS Energy. The money would be used for a CNG fueling station and 44 CNG-powered vehicles.

Burness said the city signed a five-year deal with IGS to provide fuel to the CNG fueling station, and approved an easement with American Electric Power for another power line to the station. The city also agreed to pay ANGI Energy Systems $789,399 for equipment to compress and dispense CNG vehicle fuel, and Columbia Gas $165,179 to extend a natural gas pipeline to the station.

"We are entering the bidding process now for the station, and we anticipate breaking ground this fall," Burness said. "It should be completed by the end of the year."

Across the state line in neighboring Michigan, DTE Energy announced Thursday that it had received a $5.4 million federal grant to convert 173 of its fleet vehicles from gasoline to CNG.

The grant -- awarded to the Clean Energy Coalition's Green Fleets program through the DOE using federal stimulus money -- would also pay for the construction of two new CNG fueling stations and the refurbishment of 11 others across the state. The new stations are to be built in Melvindale and East China Township.

"NGVs offer a safe complementary technology to gasoline, hybrid and electric vehicles, and they are particularly well suited to medium- and heavy-duty applications," DTE Energy COO Jerry Norcia said. "[They] are ready for the road today with technology that operates like a gasoline vehicle, but with lower fuel costs and significantly lower emissions."

In New Jersey, NJ Transit spokeswoman Courtney Carroll told NGI that the state's public transportation corporation approved a $45.56 million contract on Wednesday with DesignLine USA for 76 commuter buses powered by CNG. Funding for the buses is coming from the state Transportation Trust Fund and a $22 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

Carroll confirmed that the new buses -- which will operate along the U.S. 9 corridor in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties -- will replace existing CNG buses built from 1999 to 2000 which have many miles and will lose certification on their fuel tanks in 2013. The new buses are to have fuel tanks certified to last at least 20 years.

Meanwhile, drivers of CNG vehicles will continue to enjoy life in the fast lane in California. The state's Department of Motor Vehicles' Hybrid Clean Air Decal Program -- also known as the "yellow sticker" program -- ended on July 1, but CNG drivers can get a white sticker for their cars and continue driving solo in high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.

According to the California Environmental Protection Agency's Air Resources Board, six CNG vehicles manufactured for the 2011 model year qualify for the federal Inherently Low Emissions Vehicle (ILEV) status. The manufacturers are BAF Technologies, Baytech, Honda, NaturalDrive Partners and the Vehicle Production Group.

Also in California, Waste Management Inc. (WMI) said last Tuesday the company had added the 1,000th natural gas truck to its fleet. The truck, powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), was delivered to the company's service yard in Carson and will serve the City of Long Beach and its new recycling program.

"This is a special milestone in our journey to develop the cleanest fleet of heavy duty trucks in our industry," WMI Vice President Duane Woods said.

In a related development, WMI spokesperson Jennifer Andrews told NGI that the company unveiled a new CNG fueling station in Castroville, CA, on Wednesday. The station is to fuel 24 trucks the company has stationed at a service yard there. Andrews said the company plans to replace the entire fleet -- 45 in all -- with CNG trucks in the next 10 years.

According to WMI, its trucks in the Carson service yard are powered by the Altamont Landfill in Livermore, CA. The landfill generates up to 13,000 gallons of LNG per day. Woods said the company hopes to build a similar facility at its landfill in Simi Valley, CA. WMI also has CNG and LNG fueling stations at 17 of its facilities in North America and plans to add more.

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