West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday signed an executive order creating a statewide natural gas vehicle (NGV) task force to explore the option of creating a state fleet of natural gas vehicles (NGV). Part of the task force's work will be to identify what is needed to create a compressed natural gas (CNG) infrastructure.

The objective, said a spokesman, is "to expand natural gas fueling infrastructure and investments in natural gas fuel solutions, along with a number of other duties."

The 20-member working group, which may be increased later, includes six state officials and 14 citizens appointed by the governor, including Tomblin's general counsel, public policy director, commerce secretary, transportation secretary, state fleet management office executive director and the education department's transportation executive director.

Tomblin's order calls for the citizen appointees to have education, experience and/or specialized knowledge in the natural gas industry; alternative fuels; coal and petroleum marketing; transportation; and safety. Task force members would not be able to designate replacements for themselves. The governor is to select the chairperson.

Part of the group's charge is to perform analyses of potential cost savings that governmental entities could realize from converting gasoline and diesel-powered fleet vehicles to run on CNG. It also is to assess the state's potential for developing and operating pilot public access CNG fueling stations, including potential partnerships with gas producers, infrastructure developers, vehicle manufacturers and other industry leaders.

According to Tomblin's order, there are 6,500 vehicles in West Virginia's fleets that primarily use gasoline or diesel fuels "blended from foreign oil." It contemplates that state vehicles and the separate bus systems operating in various school districts could realize "substantial savings" by switching to natural gas, given its current average price equivalent to a gallon of gasoline at under $2.

The order also said that for the state to maximize the use of natural gas in transportation it would have to "collaborate with private industry to encourage construction of fueling stations and related infrastructure."

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