At the same time a package of bills promoting compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles is making its way through the House, the state Department of Environmental Protection is promoting a grant program to encourage more CNG use as well.
The DEP will soon begin taking applications for its Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) program, which provides $10 million for alternative fuel vehicles, including CNG, propane, and electric vehicles.
“Pennsylvania’s very serious about natural gas vehicles this year,” says Dan Lapato, DEP deputy director for external affairs. “It makes financial sense, and the environment reaps all the benefits.”
Lapato was speaking to a group of township supervisors at a the annual Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors conference in Hershey yesterday.
He said local governments should try out using a few CNG vehicles for the the services they provide.
“Don’t jump into the pool,” he said, “Just dip your toe in.”
Natural gas burns cleaner than conventional gasoline or diesel, and it’s also less expensive. The main obstacle is that the fueling infrastructure in Pennsylvania is limited. There are currently only about 18 public CNG fueling stations across the state.
Lapato says the AFIG grants can’t be used to fund fueling infrastructure, but the agency hopes private investment will fulfill that need.
The House bills, known as the “Marcellus Works” package, would provide incentives to build more fueling stations. They also provide tax incentives for public transit agencies to convert heavy-duty vehicles fleets to run on CNG, and promote the development of more fueling stations.
The DEP’s AFIG grants are targeted at smaller vehicle fleets for businesses, municipal governments and state agencies.
Pennsylvania’s Act 13 impact fee law also established a three-year, $20 million grant program administered by the DEP, to encourage more natural gas vehicle use. The agency expects to begin accepting applications for that program in late July.