Stimulus grant to boost clean air efforts
The Salt Lake Tribune
September 16, 2009
Utahns may soon notice an influx of alternative fuel vehicles on the roads -- 678 to be exact.
The vehicles are just one part of a $14.9 million grant awarded to the Utah Clean Cities Coalition by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The money is part of a 25-part Clean Cities program funded by $300 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grant will be split between 23 local partners, said Utah Clean Cities Director Robin Erickson.
Included are government agencies such as the Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City and the state Department of Administrative Services.
UTA received $63,000 per bus to purchase 10 hybrid electric buses, said spokesman Gerry Carpenter. Each bus costs about $200,000 more than a regular diesel bus, about $600,000, Carpenter said.
The grant is great news for UTA, which recently saw a large decrease in sales tax revenue. Plans call for 26 of the hybrid buses next year, which feature a 96 percent reduction in nitrous oxide emissions over 1994 models, Carpenter said.
UTA currently operates three of the hybrid buses, and plans to have the new ones running by next summer.
"Think of how many cars each of our buses is taking off the road, and the overall savings to the environment is just huge," Carpenter said.
The grant will also pay for new compressed natural gas refueling stations, Erickson said.
The State of Utah is receiving about $1 million, part of which will pay to create two new refueling sites and upgrade six existing sites, said Vicki Schoenfeld public information officer for the Department of Administrative Services.
Schoenfeld said the grant is only about 30 percent of the funding needed to complete the projects, which also includes adding to the state's vehicle fleet. The rest of the money will have to come from the state legislature during the 2010 session.
Government agencies aren't the only ones receiving funds. Private companies like UPS, Cysco Foods, Waste Management and Winder Farms will receive money to help fund the purchase of alternative fuel tractor-trailers.
Other companies, such as Questar, will receive money to create 16 new refueling stations and refurbish existing ones. Erickson said customers should expect to see their tanks fill faster and fill completely, which have been issues in the past. All of the stations, even those on private property, will be open to the public.
Erickson estimates 365 jobs will be created or saved by the grant. Since the grant comes from stimulus funds, she said transparency is a high priority for the Coalition, and eventually plans to post updates on its Web site, www.utahcleancities.org.
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