The Edmond Sun

Business

April 22, 2014

Energy secretary touts CNG fleet conversion

EDMOND — Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague said the state is leading the way in converting its fleet of vehicles to run on compressed natural gas.

And, he adds, the state is working to get federal officials engaged in moving its fleet of vehicles in Oklahoma to use CNG.

Teague made those statements Tuesday during a visit to Champion CNG, 13915 N. Harvey Ave. in Edmond. The visit also coincided with Earth Day.

“The push from the governor is as you purchase new vehicles it should be CNG,” Teague said. “ODOT jumped way out front on it. They have done a really good job of pushing it. Last time I checked it was just under 400 vehicles in the state fleet and ODOT has 160 of them. What are missing are the federal fleets. We are working on it with the White House right now.”

Teague said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has been a big proponent of CNG vehicles.

In 2011, Fallin and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joined 14 other states to sign a multi-state Memorandum of Understanding committing to the purchase of NGVs for each state’s fleet and encouraging the development of more functional and affordable CNG vehicles.

As a result of the effort, car manufacturers are offering states lower cost NGVs and more model types including the recent introduction of half-ton trucks and mid-sized sedans that run on CNG.

According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, only California and New York rank ahead of Oklahoma in the number of CNG fueling stations.

Teague said Oklahoma still has an uphill battle in providing enough CNG filling station infrastructures in rural areas.

He gave the example of Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials working on a project in Antlers but can’t use their CNG vehicles in that area because there are no CNG filling stations nearby.

“They (ODOT) have a huge maintenance team that is down in Antlers and there are no CNG trucks down there because they have no place to fill them up,” Teague said.

Brad Swartout, business partner with Champion CNG, told Teague that businesses like Champion need help from the state to help regulate the CNG industry.

He cited the examples of people offering discount items on websites like Craigslist that don’t meet industry safety requirements.

Teague said a bill recently was sent to Fallin by Rep. Leslie Osborne, R-Mustang, and Sen. Ron Justice, R-Chickasha, which will allow the Oklahoma Department of Labor to regulate the CNG industry.

The Legislature recently approved House Bill 3297, which would consolidate the inspection and regulation of natural gas fueling stations at the Department of Labor.

The bill allows the DOL to regulate compressed natural gas fueling stations instead of the Corporation Commission. It transfers the duties and enforcement of the Alternative Fuels Technician Certification Act to the Department of Labor.

“We are trying to make sure we are doing everything right,” Swartout said. “The state can help police our industry and keep us legit. There needs to be enforcement with everybody involved.”

Kyle Bengs, managing partner with Champion CNG, told Teague that the Edmond company markets to primarily fleet vehicles, but also does private vehicles as well.

“We don’t believe it (conversion) is for everyone because of the cost,” Bengs said. “We can do a cost analysis to see if it is right for them. It has to make sense to them because it is an investment.”

Bengs said he was pleased to have Teague visit to see what Champion CNG offers.

“I think it is fantastic,” Bengs said. “It means a lot to have him because he is interested in natural gas and what we do here.”

 

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