Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has added her name as co-sponsor to legislation that seeks to extend and expand federal tax credits for natural gas vehicles (NGV) and refueling facilities.

The House took up legislation on Monday that calls for the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to focus research on commercial natural gas-powered vehicles. The bill, which lawmakers had not been voted on by press time, would authorize $30 million a year from 2010 to 2014 to be spent on NGV research, CQ Today reported.

“We have an abundant domestic supply of low-emission natural gas that can substantially cut our transportation fleet’s impact on the environment,” Murkowski said. “Natural gas vehicles show particular promise in urban fleets, such as municipal buses and emergency vehicles, while refueling infrastructure is expanded.”

The Senate bill’s other co-sponsors are Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

The measure calls for the NGV tax credits to be extended by 10 years. They would equal as much as 80% of the additional cost of an NGV over a conventional gasoline-fueled vehicle, and would be capped at $12,500 for passenger cars and light trucks and at up to $64,000 for heavier-duty vehicles (see Daily GPI, July 9).

And for the first time, the bill would make all bi-fuel vehicles, which use natural gas, eligible for a tax credit equal to 50% of the additional cost over that of a conventional vehicle. It also increases the refueling property tax credit to $100,000 from $50,000 per station.

On the manufacturing side, the Senate measure would allow the entire cost of a NGV plant that is placed in service before Jan. 1, 2015 to be expensed and treated as a deduction in the taxable year in which the facility was placed in service.

Congress first provided tax credits for NGVs in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Under that bill, maximum credits equaling 80% of the incremental cost for NGVs ranged from $4,000 to $32,000.

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