New Jersey regulators on Monday approved a $10 million pilot program by New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) to add up to seven compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations in the next 12 months, which would give the state a total of 10 public fueling stations.

NJNG received approval from the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to implement the pilot program at host third-party facilities throughout its service territory. New Jersey Natural CEO Laurence Downes said the need for greater transportation fuel diversity was “never greater,” and the pilot authorized by the BPU supports the state’s energy master plan.

State regulators and the gas utility see increased natural gas vehicle deployment, particularly in commercial fleets, as a way to lower motor vehicle emissions and provide “viable and economically valuable alternatives” to traditional petroleum-based transportation. CNG-powered vehicles may reduce fuel costs 30-50% in the state versus gasoline-fueled vehicles, said a NJNG spokesman.

The pilot by NJNG is expected to expand the market by identifying companies in certain parts of New Jersey, including Monmouth, Ocean and Morris, that now are using or plan to use natural gas to operate fleet vehicles. Examples would be waste hauling vehicles, buses and delivery trucks as potential hosts for the fueling infrastructure. The facilities could be private companies, or public and municipal entities, according to NJNG.

The utility would install, own and maintain the infrastructure, and the host company would be required to make the station open to the public and initially use at least 20% of the fueling capacity in its fleet.

Initially NJNG retail gas utility customers would see no change in monthly utility bills as a result of the program, but in 2013 the New Jersey Resources subsidiary plans to file with BPU for rate cost recovery for the pilot program. The total estimated impact for an average residential customer using 1,000 therms is to be about $3.50, or 0.3%.

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