The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is preparing to host several half-day seminars across the state this fall to educate parties on applying for $20 million in grants toward the purchase of natural gas vehicles (NGV) or the conversion of eligible vehicles to natural gas.

Act 13, the state’s new omnibus Marcellus Shale law, authorized the DEP to develop and implement a natural gas energy development program (see Shale Daily, Feb. 15). The program calls for allocating $10 million during the 2012 fiscal year (FY), with $5 million earmarked for local transportation agencies. The DEP will distribute another $7.5 million during FY 2013 (with 50% for local transportation), followed by $2.5 million in FY 2014.

DEP spokesperson Linda Rebarchak told NGI’s Shale Daily the agency would probably begin accepting grant applications on Dec. 1. “Now is really the time for folks to plan, even if they may be applying for next summer,” Rebarchak said. “That’s why we’re holding these seminars statewide. We want to get folks thinking about the process in advance of the grant program.”

Vehicles eligible for the grant program must weigh at least 14,000 pounds and can be dedicated compressed natural gas (CNG) or dedicated liquefied natural gas (LNG) vehicles, provided they are powered by 100% CNG and 90% LNG, respectively. Bi-fuel vehicles propelled by CNG and diesel or gasoline are also eligible. Grants are capped at 50% of incremental purchase and retrofit costs, at $25,000 per vehicle.

Rebarchak said that under the program, eligible applicants include Commonwealth or municipal authorities, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, nonprofits, for-profit companies, local transportation organizations and state-owned or state-related universities. She said individuals were not eligible.

According to the DEP, the seminars will be held on:

“We’re trying to get folks to have their questions answered and work through any issues they may have so we get really good, approvable grant applications,” Rebarchak said. “We’re going to talk about the grant program itself, have some partnering organizations and agencies come and talk about the technology, and then bring in for each of the seminars a local success story. That way folks can have information from people that actually have first-hand experience [implementing NGVs].”

Last year the DEP released a document outlining how vehicles could be converted to run on natural gas while satisfying emission standards (see Shale Daily, Dec. 5, 2011). The state’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission also recommended that “green corridors” with natural gas filling stations be established along the major highways traversing Pennsylvania (see Shale Daily, July 26, 2011).