Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter on Thursday awarded two grants totaling almost $800,000 to increase the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel.

The grants are supported in part by federal funding created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“Fueling fleets and heavy-duty vehicles with compressed natural gas [CNG] creates another market for Colorado’s homegrown energy and continues to advance the state as a national leader in the ‘New Energy Economy,'” Ritter said. “These grants will make it easier for local governments and energy companies to fuel their vehicles with CNG, reducing the use of foreign oil and increasing our energy independence while also making our air cleaner.”

The grants are being administered through the Governor’s Energy Office.

“Momentum for natural gas vehicles is building here in Western Colorado,” said David Ludlam who directs the Western Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association. “When strong leadership at the City of Grand Junction and Garfield County combines with the governor’s vision for a cleaner transportation sector, Western Colorado’s first CNG fueling station is the result.”

One grant would provide $120,000 to the city of Grand Junction to complete a CNG fueling station for use by the city’s natural gas-powered fleet vehicles, as well as CNG-powered vehicles for use by other fleets. The city has purchased four CNG-powered garbage trucks and Grand Valley Transit is purchasing two natural gas-powered buses that will benefit from the fueling station.

A second grant would provide $675,285 to Rocky Mountain Alternative Fueling (RMAF) to develop a CNG fueling station and associated infrastructure in Rifle near Interstate 70. The station would serve the public, as well as CNG-powered fleet vehicles owned by Garfield County, Colorado Mountain College and vehicles owned by several oil and gas companies in the region. Both grants are conditional pending state and federal permits and other contracting requirements.

The Rifle station would complement another CNG station under development by RMAF in Parachute, 17 miles west. The two stations would give local CNG-powered fleets more flexibility for fueling. The Rifle station also would help open up more of the Interstate-70 corridor to CNG-fueled vehicles.

“Stakeholders from across Colorado have been working through the Colorado Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC) to strategically site natural gas fueling locations,” noted Natalia Swalnick, air quality/clean cities manager at the American Lung Association in Colorado. The American Lung Association is home to both the CNGVC and Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition. “The CNGVC has been laying the foundation for natural gas by coupling planned infrastructure with vehicle commitments from local fleets.”

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