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Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Carves Out Billions of Dollars for Hydrogen: How Utah Could Benefit

Monday, November 15, 2021 President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bill allocates money for alternative fuels such as hydrogen. Experts with the Western States Hydrogen Alliance  (WSHA) say the money could help drive large-scale deployment and investment for the hydrogen industry in Utah and the United States.

“Hydrogen fuel cells do perfectly in the large scale setting,” WSHA Executive Director Roxana Bekemohammadi said.“ Hydrogen fuel cells are a vital part of the decarbonization of especially, heavy duty equipment be it trucks busses, locomotives vessels, and even aviation”. 

According to an Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, fuel cell technologies and hydrogen energy are being increasingly viewed as essential decarbonization options across the United States and around the world for a wide range of sectors, including transportation, goods and people movement, power generation, energy storage, natural gas blending, marine propulsion, aviation, heating, steelmaking, and other industrial applications.

“This bill demonstrates the incredible potential for creating the nation’s hydrogen economy,” added Frank Wolak. “FCHEA is encouraged by further discussions surrounding the Build Back Better Act which includes an array of tax and policy activities that complement this infrastructure bill and will continue to drive innovation, economic growth, and emissions reduction.”

The infrastructure bill includes a package of resources for hydrogen including $8 billion for development of a number of large-scale Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs across the country, $1 billion for Clean Hydrogen Electrolysis Research and Development, and $500 million in funds for Clean Hydrogen Manufacturing and Recycling. Also, the bill directs the federal government to develop the country’s first national hydrogen roadmap and strategy. 

“We are excited that the Biden Administration and Congress are supporting four hydrogen hubs.
They want one that will be utilizing fossil fuels, one that will utilize nuclear power, one for renewable energy, and the last one is up in the air,” WSHA Executive Director Roxana Bekemohammadi said. 

The bill lays out other opportunities to help propel the deployment of l hydrogen energy and fuel cell technology throughout the nation’s energy and transportation systems. 

Bekemohammadi says the $1 billion allocated to clean hydrogen electrolysis research and development could help Utah based company OxEon Energy, a company that produces solid oxide electrolyzer and fuel cells. OxEon Energy is investigating the use of a solid oxide fuel cell stack as the power generation device for eVTOL applications. The challenges of robustness of the SOFC device was addressed under a NASA funded program to develop a solid oxide electrolysis unit that successfully generated oxygen on Mars. 

“On top of that, they are hiring locally so I anticipate there is going to be economic development through this money potentially being invested in OxEon”, WSHA Executive Director Roxana Bekemohammadi said. 

Another Utah based project that could benefit from the infrastructure bill is the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA). Located in the Utah Inland Port territory of Salt Lake City, Lancer Energy is building the state’s first super station. Experts say the station is going to be an SMR unit taking renewable natural gas to hydrogen and then taking the hydrogen through a fuel cell for DC fast charging. UIPA plans to capture hydrogen using SMR  (steam methane reforming) using natural gas. This capture requires a combination of renewable and carbon captured hydrogen. 

Republican Senator Mitt Romney was the states only lawmaker in Washington to support the President’s Infrastructure Bill.

Senator Romney released the following statement, After months of unnecessary delay by House Democratic leadership, today’s passage is a win for Utah, as we will now be better positioned to meet transportation challenges, mitigate drought conditions, prepare for and respond to wildfires, extend broadband to rural communities, and fulfill critical water needs. In stark contrast to Democrats’ efforts to pass a separate bill to drastically expand social programs, the bipartisan group I worked with proved that it’s possible to achieve solutions without raising taxes or adding trillions to the national debt. I urge President Biden to keep his promise to sign this legislation without delay, so we can modernize our nation’s physical infrastructure, address supply chain issues, and demonstrate that, even in polarized times, Congress can still come together on behalf of the American people”. 

Utah Highlights:

Authorizes $3 Billion for Utah’s Roads and Highways

  • Utah has 2,064 miles of roads in poor condition. Commute times are up 7.2% in the state since 2011 and bad roads cost drivers an average of $709 per year in repair. This bipartisan legislation authorizes roughly $3 billion in highway funding for Utah over five years to construct, rebuild, and maintain its roads and highways.

 Includes key legislative priorities championed by Senator Romney:

  • Smart Intersections Act: Provides resources to state, local, and tribal governments to improve the functioning of their traffic signals;
  • Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act: Establishes a commission to study and recommend fire prevention, mitigation, management, and rehabilitation policies for forests and grasslands;
  • Secures additional funding for wildfire mitigation and recovery, including hazardous fuel removal, burned area recovery, prescribed fires, shared stewardship contracts and agreements, and more;
  • $50 million for Central Utah Project Completion Act: Provides water for municipal use, mitigation, hydroelectric power, fish and wildlife, and conservation;
  • $500 million for the Western Area Power Administration for drought-related shortfalls; 
  • $300 million to fund outstanding Emergency Watershed Program needs for post-fire recovery and wildfire mitigation;
  • $100 million for drought contingency plan funding;
  • $1 billion for the FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure Communities (BRIC) program for pre-disaster mitigation, including wildfire and drought projects;
  • $214 million to fully fund the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement: Legislation to bring running water to the 40% of Navajo Nation in Utah who lack it; and
  • $1.7 billion for the construction and improvement of Indian Health Services sanitation facilities.

Delivers $219 million to Utah for water revolving funds

  • The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would authorize roughly $219 million over five years for the Beehive State through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program & Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

Invests in Utah’s Airports

  • In July, the FAA announced Utah airports received over $1.8 million in federal grants through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $25 billion for airport improvement projects such as expansions, installations, assisting with planning, rebuilding runways, improving lighting and runways, and air navigation facilities.

Provides $65 billion to expand broadband access across the country

  • Builds on Senator Romney’s efforts to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities in Utah.

Eliminates federal red tape by reforming the permitting process to speed construction projects

  • Builds on the Federal Permitting Council’s efforts to shortening the government approval process for large infrastructure projects by bringing relevant agencies together to reduce inefficiencies. 

    Provides $40 billion in funding for bridge construction, maintenance, and repair

  • Of that, $30 billion will be apportioned by formula to ensure bridges in every state are provided with needed resources. Utah currently has 62 bridges classified as structurally deficient.

About the Western States Hydrogen Association 

The Western States Hydrogen Alliance is a member-based non-profit alliance, dedicated to advancing the market for hydrogen and fuel cells in the commercial sector within the Western United States. WSHA’s focus is on swift and decisive action in the immediate term, acknowledging that an open window of opportunity exists in the market now.

About the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association 

The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) represents over seventy leading companies and organizations that are advancing innovative, clean, safe, and reliable energy technologies. FCHEA drives support and provides a consistent industry voice to regulators and policymakers. Our educational efforts promote the environmental and economic benefits of fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies. 

Resources

Utah Clean Cities Coalition Hydrogen Projects 

A beginners Guide to Hydrogen in Utah 

Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA)

Western States Hydrogen Association

listen to the entire interview with WSHA Executive Director Roxana Bekemohammadi. 

 

 

 

 

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The infrastructure bill could make Utah a leader in alternative fuels

Posted on Tuesday, November 16, 2021

By Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY — President Joe Biden’s Monday signature on a massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal may reengineer the way people and goods move around Utah, while also tapping the brakes on the trajectory of the climate crisis.

The House of Representatives passed the Senate’s version of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Nov. 5, legislation negotiated with a bipartisan group of lawmakers including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). Road and bridge repair will get one of the biggest buckets of spending, with $110 billion dedicated to those projects and $3 billion alone going to Utah.

“It’s still early, very early, in terms of our understanding of exactly what’s in the bill,” warned Tallis Blalack, with Utah State University’s ASPIRE Research Center. “And more importantly, how what’s in there is going to be implemented.”

State agencies await guidance and clarification for how the infrastructure money can be applied for and spent. But it’s clear big investments lie ahead in many facets of transportation — $66 billion will go to rail projects throughout the nation, $17 billion is set aside for ports (including inland ports) and $7.5 billion is dedicated to electric vehicles, to name just a few examples.

Here, industry experts weigh in on how Utah can leverage the infrastructure deal’s funds and go beyond just patching potholes to transforming transportation in the state.

A ‘futuristic’ inland port

The Utah Inland Port Authority already has a plan in place to hire people dedicated to applying for Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act grants, according to port director Jack Hedge, in order to build a “21st Century port.”

“About 40% of the nation’s goods move through Utah annually,” Hedge said. “So I think we can make a really good case for maybe a bigger slice of the pie than we might otherwise be entitled to.”

Those funds won’t be used to build projects the port authority has already shared with the public, like the transloading facility and expanded rail access, he said.

“I see it more as being some of these things that are a little more difficult to make a business case for. For example, renewable fuels,” Hedge said. “To build that infrastructure out becomes a chicken-or-egg question. Grant monies can help build the chicken so we can get the eggs.”

The port director said he’s particularly excited about the $65 billion the infrastructure plan dedicates to broadband. The port authority is currently partnering with Intel, Athonet, QuayChain and Wireless Industrial Group to build an “Intelligent Crossroads Network” at the port, a private 5G network that provides rapid information about the supply chain and makes moving cargo more efficient.

“There’s not a lot of good data points for where your cargo is, how it’s moving, whose truck it’s on,” Hedge said. “Our network will help provide the platform for that data to be available.”

The network could also support automation and autonomous vehicles in the future, he added. And the infrastructure bill’s timing is particularly good for Utah, since its port is largely just on the cusp of its construction.

“The portions of the port still to be developed, we can develop as this state-of-the-art, really futuristic view of how to build ports,” Hedge said, “whereas if you’re talking about a 100-year-old port, like Los Angeles, you’ve got a lot of existing infrastructure you’ve got to tear up and replace.”

Utah’s inland port remains controversial, however, and the port authority is locked in a lawsuit with Salt Lake City that sits before the Utah Supreme Court. Since its formation in 2018, opponents of the inland port have complained about the authority’s lack of transparency. Its plans for projects like the transloading facility and the Intelligent Crossroads Network continue to be vague.

Deeda Seed, with the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition, said she’s concerned infrastructure funds will be used to bring more truck traffic, climate-altering emissions and air pollution to the Wasatch Front.

“We’re in the situation where we have to see what the port authority proposes before we can respond,” Seed said. “Right now, as with everything, they give the public such incomplete information that it makes it hard for us to do the kind of robust analysis that we would like to do.”

A big rig revolution

Also at the inland port, researchers at Utah State University are ramping up to demonstrate groundbreaking technology for semi trucks, and the infrastructure deal could further drive those efforts.

An influx of diesel emissions-spewing trucks is the source of many anxieties about the growing inland port, but USU’s ASPIRE Center — which stands for Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification — is set to demonstrate a wireless charging network and potentially make Utah an epicenter of electrified transportation.

“A lot of our focus is on how do we electrify heavy duty vehicles?” said Blalack, ASPIRE’s managing director. “That’s one of the biggest challenges we have for the nation and for the world.”

The reason electric cars like Teslas and Nissan Leafs are a common sight on daily commutes, but electric big rigs are pretty much nonexistent, is because electric trucks are both expensive and the batteries are heavy. To cover a 500-mile range, a semi would need a unit that costs more than $100,000 and weighs 20,000 pounds.

Given that loaded rigs can’t weigh more than 80,000 pounds, those batteries limit the amount of cargo a truck can haul. But ASPIRE is working on wireless rapid chargers for trucks, similar to the cordless devices used to re-juice mobile phones.

“A semi driver will be able to pull over during a mandatory lunch break,” Blalack said, “and get enough charge in that half hour to do the full route.”

Eventually, the group wants to incorporate that technology into the road pavement itself so both truckers and commuters can charge while they drive, which would lower the price tag of electric vehicles for everyone, Blalack said. Instead of those huge 500-mile range batteries, trucks could get by on smaller and cheaper 50-mile ones.

The Utah Legislature allocated $5 million for ASPIRE’s program at the inland port, called the “Freight Logistics Electrification Demonstration Project,” and has signaled it will eventually dedicate $20 million to the pilot.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get significant matching funds from the infrastructure bill,” Blalack said. “This is going to end up being a very good investment by the state, as we’re able to prove out these technologies and prove Utah as a leader in the nation for electrification.”

And the inland port project, set to begin construction in 2023, is just the first phase of building that electrified network.

“Ultimately, we want to see an electric corridor from Provo to Ogden,” Blalack said.

A more equitable transportation system

The biggest chunk of the infrastructure deal will help patch crumbling streets, which is right up Blyncsy CEO Mark Pittman’s alley. The Salt Lake City-based tech firm recently launched a pilot program with the Utah Department of Transportation to use its Payver A.I. software in detecting road hazards and issues in need of repair.

But Pittman said what interests him most about the infrastructure bill is the chance to build a more equitable transportation system.

“This is a slog of money to fix all the bridges that weren’t up to date, to build the roads that we need to build … so it should move us critically forward,” he said. “My concern is what happens after.”

The infrastructure deal is set to improve the lives of low-income and minority communities by expanding services like broadband and finally delivering running water to the Navajo Nation. Utah also has a chance to improve connectivity and transform underserved areas by adding things as basic as sidewalks and bike lanes, Pittman said.

“We have lots of areas, particularly from a transit perspective, across this country where low-income populations are effectively forced to own cars,” Pittman said, “and the bill is looking to help right those types of wrongs.”

The federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program will get an additional a $7.5 billion through the infrastructure deal. RAISE has supported transportation projects like rapid bus lines to low-income neighborhoods in Alabama and the removal of a freeway that destroyed a once-thriving Black community in Detroit.

Congress has spent $8.9 billion on RAISE since its inception in 2009, so the infrastructure bill’s investment represents a significant boost.

And the president has directed that 40% of federal climate and clean energy spending should go to disadvantaged communities through the Justice40 Initiative.

Data that Pittman collects can show that low-income neighborhoods are prone to unsafe road conditions, or poor access to transit, he said, where those infrastructure dollars are badly needed.

“This can be based on a bunch of things, right?” Pittman said. “… But often we suspect a lot of it is that wealthier areas probably complain more. They donate to [politicians], their voices are elevated in ways that the other areas can’t be.”

The federal infrastructure plan also invests $5 billion to reduce crashes and conflicts with bicyclists and pedestrians through a Safe Streets For All program, which could further transform Utah’s streets into safer and more equitable spaces, Pittman said.

“We’re working really extensively and using our data detectors to find examples where there’s pedestrians and cars in conflict zones and use that to make investment in safety” with infrastructure like improved street lights, barriers and reflective paint, Pittman said.

A supercharged EV network and alternative fuels hub

The billions set to build out the nation’s electric vehicle infrastructure are bound to have an impact on Utah as well, particularly because the funds focus on rural areas.

Rocky Mountain Power recently announced a $50 million investment to add around 20 EV “extreme fast chargers” across the state. Utah can leverage that money to get more federal infrastructure funds to add even more chargers to the network, including in remote areas, according to Josh Craft with Utah Clean Energy.

That means more people will be willing to buy electric vehicles versus combustion engine cars, because “they’ll have the confidence and knowledge they can get to a charger when they need it,” Craft said.

Beyond electric vehicles, Utah is in a good position to become a leader in alternative fuels with the help of infrastructure funds. Craft noted an effort at the Intermountain Power Project in Delta exploring green hydrogen technology.

The plant, which sends most of its power to California, will stop using coal by 2025. It intends to convert to a mix of hydrogen and natural gas, eventually generating 100% of its electricity from “clean” hydrogen that uses renewables like wind or solar to harvest hydrogen from water molecules.

“It’s new, and green hydrogen is currently expensive in terms of delivered power,” Craft said. “But there are a lot of opportunities with national funds to drive down those costs.”

Lawmakers have dedicated $8 billion to create at least four sites that can demonstrate production and storage of clean hydrogen. The Intermountain Power Plant is next door to huge salt domes that happen to be ideal natural vessels for storing hydrogen, making it a good candidate for the funds.

“There will be opportunities to sell that [hydrogen] across the West, including to Utah customers,” Craft said. “It’s a [chance] for us to be on the leading edge of an energy hub.”

The hydrogen project at the Intermountain plant, called Advanced Clean Energy Storage, is largely focused on producing electricity. But hydrogen as an alternative fuel for vehicles is another big push in the infrastructure deal, and the massive oil and gas company Chevron Corp. recently signaled its interest in becoming an investor in the Delta effort, alongside Mitsubishi Power Americas and Magnum Development.

“We’re excited that Congress has taken the first step … in not only upgrading our infrastructure, but doing it in a way that’s mindful of our energy transition and climate change,” Craft said.

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Transportation Energy Partners Hosts Webinar

When: Friday, November 21, 2021

11 a.m. to Noon MST

Register Here

Some of highlights of the just passed $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill include:

  • $39 billion in new funds for public transit
  • $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging and other refueling stations
  • $5 billion to purchase electric and other alternative fuel school buses
  • $9 billion for hydrogen research, development, & demonstrations

The November 19th webinar will feature Washington’s top clean transportation policy experts who will address the following questions:

  • How will this transform the clean fuels and vehicles space?
  • What will be in the final Build Back Better Act?
  • Who will be the key players on disbursing these funds?
  • How can communities prepare to apply for infrastructure project funding?
  • What can Clean Cities Coalitions and other industry leaders do to effectively maximize these upcoming opportunities?

Representatives from the Electric Drive Transportation Association, NGVAmerica, National Biodiesel Board, National Propane Gas Association, and other prominent clean transportation organizations will join

us to discuss these and other important questions.

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Utah Clean Cities attends Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit

By Marti Sorensen Intern Utah Clean Cities

On October 27 (Wed.) and 28 (Thurs.), 2021, Utah Clean Cities attended the recent Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit held in Kanab, Utah.This event aims to develop and elevate outdoor recreation communities, foster stewardship, and improve the health and quality of life of all Utah residents. More than 250 attendees including: universities, non-profits, and local companies.The show of support at the Summit was a fantastic display of Utahns’ passion and love for the public lands. The East Zion mountain biking trail’s ribbon cutting ceremony kicked off the summit, including remarks from speakers Jeff Bradybaugh, Superintendent of Zion National Park, Brent Chamberlain, Kane County Commissioner, Pitt Grewe, Director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, Mark Preiss, Director of the Zion National Park Foundation, and Vicki Varela, Managing Director of the Utah Office of Tourism. The 10 miles of new bike trail is one of the many features planned for the east entrance of the national park in the coming years to help address overcrowding. The trail comes as National Park Service data show more than an estimated 4 million visitors have visited the park already this year, through September, which puts it on pace to shatter its visitation record of over 4.5 million set in 2017. 

“The next generation of our park experience in our public land experience is going to look like a collaboration that is not just about our visitors and their experience, but it’s about the health and well-being of our communities. We’re going to determine what that looks like for the next 100 years,” Mark Preiss said. 

The land for the 10 miles of the mountain bike trails that opened Wednesday was donated by two local families: the McLaws and Neeleman families; the latter is the owner of the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, which is located in Kane County between the park’s eastern boundaries and the town of Orderville. 

At the trail opening, Utah Clean Cities unveiled  its new EV shuttle, which is part of the larger EV Zion Project, in order to promote the goals of strengthening outdoor recreation and improving health for all Utahns. This new EV Shuttle was created to navigate the varied weather and terrain of Zion National Park and the neighboring areas of Southern Utah. Both the EV shuttle and the new East Zion mountain biking trail illustrate how collaboration and forward thinking can lead to significant and long-lasting infrastructure that can be used by all. This brief demonstration is part of a greater transportation vision for this area, which is prone to traffic congestion due to the park’s high visitor numbers. 

Watch the entire ribbon cutting here. 

 

 

 

 

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Zion: Nation’s 4th most visited national park delivers big $ to Utah

Posted on March 23, 2021

By

Article here

SALT LAKE CITY — Zion National Park, Utah’s superstar of tourism, draws millions of visitors each year and stands to deliver even more economic success under a scenario with planned improvements to its east entrance.

A new report by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah details the financial impact of Zion National Park, which out of 62 national parks in the country ranked No. 4 in visitation.

“Zion National Park is a top driver of Utah’s travel and tourism economy,” said Jennifer Leaver, Gardner Institute senior tourism analyst and lead author of the report.

“In this study, we worked with park managers and stakeholders to project Zion visitation over a 10-year horizon. We considered recent visitation trends, the self-limiting effects of park crowding and the possible impacts of proposed east park developments to help local decision-makers make informed decisions on the future of Zion.”

The report found the proposed developments at the east entrance that include a new visitor center, electric shuttle fleet, hiking trails and lodging have the potential to generate 545 jobs and $36.9 million in gross domestic product each year from 2020 to 2030 in southwestern Utah.

Findings underscore the popularity of Zion and other national parks’ impact on tourism, including:

  • One-third of all Utah national park spending was by visitors to Zion, and over 40% of all visitors to the parks in Utah made a trip to Zion.
  • In 2019, Zion National Park visitors spent a record $253.6 million in Kane and Washington counties, supporting 4,438 jobs, $140.5 million in earnings, $235.3 million in gross domestic product and $42.2 million in state and local tax revenue.
  • Park visitors are one of Utah’s top visitor spending groups, with an estimated $1,133 spent per travel party per stay in 2019, and an estimated annual statewide spending of more than $434 million outside of the park and its surrounding communities.

Increased park visitation has been a “mighty” challenge for Utah’s Mighty Five, straining resources particularly at Arches and Zion national parks.

The institute’s report notes that Zion experienced a 47.5% increase from 2014 to 2019, squeezing in an additional 1.7 million visitors over that five-year period.

Such an increase demonstrates the need to disperse visitors to improve the tourism experience, alleviate the strain on park infrastructure and to avoid breaching visitor capacity.

“Public-private investment in infrastructure, including a new visitor center, electric shuttle system, over 40 miles of new trails and new lodging and retail services, will help with Zion National Park overcrowding and create both good jobs and economic growth across Kane and Washington counties,” said Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain.

Such a private partnership was born in 2017 with the launch of the Zion Natl Park Forever Project, which raises money to boost stewardship of the overworked park and to pay for improvements. The program has been active with a variety of projects.

In the report released Tuesday, authors detail a scenario via planned east entrance developments, including construction of four new hotels featuring 337 rooms that would boost Kane County’s hotel capacity by nearly 30%.

It also calls for construction of a visitor center at the east entrance and four high-end residential developments catering to tourists who could rent the homes for an average of $560 a night the first year.

The report describes ways to reduce congestion and pollution in the park through the purchase and deployment of a fleet of zero-emission electric vehicles. The vehicles would take visitors between Zion National Park’s South Entrance Visitor Center, the proposed East Entrance Visitor Center and the city of Kanab, passing through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.

The park’s current shuttle system only transports visitors up and down Zion Canyon.

If the park stayed on a trajectory of “business as usual” in the coming decade, the report notes that visitation will flatten as the park reaches capacity.

“The authors believe that continued Zion National Park visitation growth without future infrastructure investment risks negatively impacting the park visitor experience to the point of necessary visitor park capacity restrictions and diminished local economic benefits,” the report said. “In addition, the authors feel it is important for Zion National Park managers and east entrance developers to consider emerging local, national and global issues as they develop future park management plans and direct infrastructure investments.”

 

 

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Kane County votes down plan to create shuttle from Kanab to Zion The vote on Proposition 10 came just a week after the East Zion Initiative launched a pilot electric shuttle system.

Posted on Nov. 4, 2021

By Alastair Lee Bitsóí K. Sofie Wills, The Salt Lake City Tribune

Kane County voters, a majority who live in Kanab City, voted down a ballot initiative that proposed a public bus shuttle system that would have transported visitors from Kanab City to Zion National Park on Tuesday.

The county electorate was asked whether or not they’d support Proposition 10, which would have created a government body to run a shuttle from Kanab City to East Zion and on to Zion National Park. The shuttle would have also provided services to the region’s access to hiking and biking trails, vacation stays and other recreational opportunities.

Unofficial election results indicate that 1,338 voters or about 68.44% voted against Proposition 10.

“Proposition 10 lost,” County Clerk Karla Johnson said. “The people voted against it.”

Johnson added that Kane County had about a 60% voter turnout for this election cycle.

The vote on Proposition 10 came just a week after the East Zion Initiative launched a pilot electric shuttle system to demonstrate cleaner options for transportation in the region and as a way to help disperse Zion’s 4 million visitors to different parts of the park. The East Zion Initiative recently celebrated the opening of a new 10-mile mountain bike trail system as part of a larger project to develop the area, which includes a proposed $16 million East Zion Visitor Center Applecross Station.

Members of the East Zion Initiative say the vote is disappointing but it will not stop their plans to develop the area. The initiative consists of Utah Clean Cities, Kane County, Zion Forever Project, the National Park Service, the McLaws family, state and federal tourism officials and the Bureau of Land Management.

The vote will exclude any immediate regional recreational planning with Kanab City, supporters of the electric shuttle system say.

Tammie Bostick, executive director for Utah Clean Cities, said that the people’s vote on Proposition 10 is centered on misinformation and that the vote doesn’t impact her work to supply electric shuttles for visitors to Zion National Park. Utah Clean Cities will find other alternatives than Kanab City to launch its electric shuttle service, she said.

Last week, Bostick told The Salt Lake Tribune that the electric shuttle services sponsored by Utah Clean Cities would launch in Kanab, and now she and other partners will need to plan for other launch sites.

“[The] shuttle system is to serve Zion National Park,” Bostick said. “And to demonstrate the technology in the park has nothing to do with Kane County.”

Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain, who also sits on the board of Utah Clean Cities, added that he is surprised by the public vote on Proposition 10. “We’re feeling like maybe it was a fair amount of people that are feeling overrun with tourists, and well, not tourists, just seeing the area grow and kind of resistant to that,” Chamberlain said.

As a result of the public vote, Chamberlain said, Kane County will no longer consider creating a transportation authority for the East Zion region, and that future transportation plans would probably be better suited to a private or nonprofit entity.

“We will just kind of go forward with doing the things we can do and things like the shuttle system, if that happens, it will need to be somebody else that does that,” he said.

The nonprofit Zion National Park Forever Project still plans to work with its partners to extend the park’s economic and recreational opportunities around Zion, including the East Zion area.

“In the spirit of shared stewardship for these heritage lands, Zion Forever Project will continue to work with its Kane County partners, business leaders and property owners to conserve the last unprotected and undeveloped gateway to a national park in the lower 48 through the East Zion Initiative, ” said Mark Preiss, director of Zion Forever

 

 

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A recap of the 13 Annual Alternative Fuels Awareness Month: READ the Governor’s Declaration

Governor Declares November as Advanced Zero Emission Vehicle and Fuels Awareness Month

Event demonstrates Utah leadership on clean transportation

Salt Lake City, UT – Utah kicked off the 13th annual Advanced Zero Emission Vehicle and Fuels Awareness Month with an event showcasing the state’s efforts to advance development of clean transportation choices in both the private and public sectors. Governor Spencer Cox’s official declaration was read today by Thom Carter, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development. The declaration highlights the emerging portfolio of advanced fueled vehicles, both public and private, including fuels produced from Utah-sourced agricultural and municipal wastes, renewable electric, hydrogen, methane, and biofuels. Utah is one of nine western states to explore electric vehicle adoption and infrastructure deployments throughout the west as part of the Western Governors Association’s Electric Vehicles Roadmap Initiative. Additionally, the REVWest program has grown into the Utah-led CORWest project which is recognized as a national rural model for building electric vehicle infrastructure throughout rural gateway communities, national parks, and scenic byways.

In Southern Utah, more than 30 public and private partners have collaborated to advance Smart Mobility systems in gateway communities, including the EVZion electric shuttle demonstration pilot and the commitment of Zion National Park to electrify all busing services in the park.

“Half of all air pollution along the Wasatch Front comes from the transportation sector. Of that, fifty percent comes from the tailpipes of medium and heavy-duty vehicles. The 13th Annual Alternative Fuels Awareness Month amplifies opportunities while directly addressing the real and perceived barriers to using abundant, affordable, and Utah-based clean fuels solutions. Awareness is the most urgent call to bring action and real deployment of zero emissions vehicles to Utah’s transportation sector,” said Utah Clean Cities Executive Director Tammie Bostick.

Manufacturers currently offer more than 850 models of alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery-electric, ethanol and renewable fuels for compressed natural gas and propane to provide state-of-the-art road-ready options for vehicle classes for light, medium and heavy-duty vehicle fleets. Utah is working collaboratively with the Utah Clean Cities Coalition, United States Department of Energy, and the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration to build the highway systems of the future with Utah’s existing Alternative Fuel Corridor along major interstate corridors offering 868 alternative fueling sites.

The Utah Inland Port Authority is also working to bring alternative fuel options and zero-emissions technologies to heavy-duty transportation and logistics fleets. Partnering with BayoTech, Lancer Energy, and others, UIPA has begun a project to develop a distributed hydrogen production hub and fueling station within the Salt Lake valley jurisdictional area. The Port Authority is also working with ASPIRE, the Utah State University electrification technology leader, on port electrification and hydrogen technologies with renewable sources from Utah’s own energy sector for port-to-port freight movement.

“Environmental sustainability and economic development are not mutually exclusive,” said Jack Hedge, UIPA Executive Director. “UIPA’s role is to invest in all kinds of alternative fuel infrastructure to lead the region to cleaner, more sustainable options for the logistics industry.”

Demonstration vehicles showcased at the event included an all-electric bus from the Salt Lake City School District, a 100% Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) Ford F150 from Lancer Energy, a RNG refuse and recycling hauler, and Tesla passenger cars.

 

Alternative Fuel Awareness Month in Utah 

Whereas, November marks the 13th Alternative Fuels Awareness Month, which continues to raise public awareness and encourage the adoption of clean transportation choices in Utah to reduce pollution and improve air quality;

Whereas, we support the Western Governors Association’s Electric Vehicles Roadmap Initiative, providing a coordinated effort between nine western states to explore electric vehicle adoption and infrastructure deployment throughout the west; 

Whereas, manufacturers currently offer more than 850 models of alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery-electric, ethanol, compressed natural gas, liquified natural gas and propane to provide state-of-the-art, road-ready options for light, medium and heavy-duty vehicle classes;

Whereas, the emerging portfolio of advanced-fuel vehicles that operate on Utah-produced sources continue to ensure our energy security with growing numbers of renewable options for electric, propane, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, and from agricultural and municipal waste;

Whereas, the State of Utah, working collaboratively with the United States Department of Energy, the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration and the Utah Clean Cities Coalition, continues to build transportation systems that will meet future needs through Utah’s existing Alternative Fuel Corridor, offering 870 alternative fueling sites along major interstate corridors;

Whereas, the REVWest initiative, involving eight Intermountain West Governors, has grown into the Utah-led CORWest project and is now recognized as a national rural model for building electric vehicle infrastructure throughout rural gateway communities, national parks and scenic byways; 

Whereas, we applaud southern Utah leaders who have worked tirelessly to create smart mobility systems in gateway communities including the EVZion electric shuttle pilot and the commitment of Zion National Park to electrify all busing services in the park;

Now, therefore, I, Spencer Cox, Governor of the great State of Utah, do hereby declare November 2021 Alternative Fuel Awareness Month in Utah, henceforth known as Advanced Zero Emission Vehicle and Fuels Awareness Month.

 

Alternative Fuel Awareness Month in Utah

 

 

 

 

 

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New mountain bike trail in Zion National Park part of plan to spread out impact of crowds

Posted on October 28, 2021

By Alastair Lee Bitsóí The Salt Lake Tribune

Article 

East Fork • The McLaws family has owned land outside of Zion National Park for 23 years. Most of this land, which consists of juniper, pinon and pine, would normally be reserved as a family ranch and for off-spring inheritance and fortune. Valued at $1.3 million, they’re giving it away.

The McLaws family donated about 20 acres of their lands to a private-public partnership called the East Zion Initiative, which plans to develop and protect the east gateway entrance into Zion National Park.

One of the first projects to come out of this collaborative is the East Zion Bike Trail Network. On Wednesday, the McLaws, along with state and Kane County officials, the Zion Forever Project and officials from Zion National Park celebrated the first 10-miles of a 24.5 mountain bike trail system that will loop around the eastern edge of the famous park.

Zion National Park is one of the most popular parks in the nation, with approximately 4.5 million visitors coming from all over the world to see its iconic red canyons. Oftentimes, tourists pack into the park’s propane-fueled buses to hike, camp or bike through the 15-miles of the canyon’s steep 3,000 feet cliffs. Park officials want to disperse visitors throughout the park to lessen the impact of the crowds.

“I do understand from talking to people, and having them in moments around the campfire, that people do need this,” Kevin McLaws said, referring to how the East Zion Initiative is trying to develop the land in a sustainable manner.

The East Zion Initiative was founded with the goal of providing new experiences and recreational opportunities that expand beyond what Zion National Park offers in its park borders. Most times visitors come to Zion for popular visits and hikes like Angels Landing and the Narrows, but there is more recreation beyond the cliffs.

Along with the visitor center, the east entrance is getting an electric shuttle bus system. A pilot project by the Utah Clean Cities, the electric buses will begin to shuttle people to and from Zion in Kanab, according to its executive director Tammie Bostick.

Over 23 years ago, the McLaws made an offer on 20 acres of land with future generations in mind. The goal, McLaws said, is to also help offset visitor impact to Zion National Park, which annually attracts about 4 million visitors. This year, the park is already about to surpass the 4.5 million visitors that came in 2019.

“It certainly becomes a place that can relieve the pressure of the main canyon in Zion,” McLaws said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony near the intersection of Highway 9 and North Fork Road.

Construction on the new bike trail, built by American Conservation Experience, began last fall, and will now be a cycling option for the one million visitors that enter Zion National Park’s east entrance, said Zion National Park Superintendent Jeffery Bradybaugh.

The superintendent explained the East Zion Initiative is an example of diversifying the recreational experience for the region.

“We want to provide visitors with a range of experiences,” Bradybaugh said.

The proposed visitor center, which will be staffed by the National Park Service, was a venue that NPS identified as a need in 2000, but has since lacked the money to fully operate it. Overall, the NPS says it has a need for $11 billion in infrastructure.

Bradybaugh added that partnerships — like those with Kane County, the Zion Forever Project, the McLaws family and others — will allow Zion to have a visitor center in the east “with minimal impact to the park’s operation.”

Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain said that development in East Zion has been led by the county and its partners, including the securing of a $15.5 million loan for the proposed visitor center.

Citing the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute’s report on the economic impact of Zion National Park as the tool for the new growth, Chamberlain said that the park is a vital part of Kane and Washington counties. The report, published in March 2021, found that the park’s east entrance could generate 545 jobs and $36.9 million per year from 2020 to 2030 for southwest Utah.

“It’s just its incredible country, so it provides an opportunity,” Chamberlain said, noting that visitors would be able to park their huge recreational vehicles at the visitor center and have the option to ride in shuttles and no longer slow down traffic through the Mount Carmel Tunnel.

For the Zion Forever Project, which helped to fundraise for the bike trails, the grand opening has finally come to fruition after many months of private-public conversations. Before riding his bike on the new trail, Mark Preiss, director for the Zion Forever Project, said, “I think it’s been inspired by our local community. And I think that when we think about pioneer spirit, this is sort of a next gen[eration] version of that.”

 

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Inside Zion National Park’s first electric bus to park’s east entrance

Posted on October 19, 2021

By K. Sofie Wills, St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Posted on October 27, 2021

Article 

The first electric shuttle for Zion National Park took its first drive to just outside the park’s east side on Wednesday, with officials celebrating the opening of the first 10 miles of mountain biking trails at the new East Zion trails project.

The Spectrum took an exclusive first ride on the shuttle’s maiden voyage from Kanab to Glendale with state and local officials, with Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain at the helm.

With 14 seats, a wheelchair ramp and a quiet engine, leaders on board discussed the road to get to this point after years of grant-writing, applications, campaigning, managing and building to finally watch the shuttle run for the first time.

The $2 million shuttle was equipped with electronic mirrors inside that showed the driver the outside of the bus, with a dashboard battery level gauge positioned n the dash instead of a fuel gauge.

A little over a half-hour later, the shuttle landed in Glendale, just outside Zion’s east entrance at North Fork Road, where more than 60 people gathered to celebrate the trail opening and the East Zion Initiative.

Mark Preiss, director of the Zion Forever Project, the park’s charity arm, welcomed the shuttle by saying the East Zion Initiative is the next step toward the future of the park, the area and conservation.

“The next generation of our park experience in our public land experience is going to look like a collaboration that is not just about our visitors and their experience, but it’s about the health and well-being of our communities,” Preiss said. “We’re going to determine what that looks like for the next 100 years.”

Preiss said the shuttle project and the East Zion Initiative is “next-generation innovation” that requires extensive partnership to distribute the nearly 4 million visitors who come to the nation’s third most-visited park.

“No one makes money with visitors sitting in lines for hours,” Preiss said.

Tammie Bostick, executive director of Utah Clean Cities, said this project and their work to push Utah to clean energies has put the state on the radar as a leader for the entire country.

“I cannot tell you how inspiring your public-private collaboration is to the whole state. You are the poster child of creating a sustainable recreation and visitor economy,” Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism, said.

The proposed $16 million visitor’s center, a second for the park, is just down the road from the bike trail and marked by a few tents. A formal opening for the shuttles and a groundbreaking for the visitor’s center will be held in mid-November.

Officials discussed the vision for the area around the trailhead, with a roundabout leading to an “EV Electric shuttle bus hub, and regional transportation center linking guests and visitors to other area towns and places,” a press release said.

Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain said that even though the county is sparsely populated, it is doing some heavy work for the park and the state with the East Zion Initiative — something he calls the “holy Zion Initiative.”

“You’re standing at a point in time here where destiny has brought everything together … We’re not done yet,” he said.

Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain said that even though the county is sparsely populated, it is doing some heavy work for the park and the state with the East Zion Initiative — something he calls the “holy Zion Initiative.”

“You’re standing at a point in time here where destiny has brought everything together … We’re not done yet,” he said.

Last August, The Spectrum wrote an exclusive investigative series into why the park’s aging shuttles could not receive funding to replace them, something leaders credit with leading to the federal Department of Transportation grant of $33 million for new electric shuttles in February.

Chargers for the shuttle were delivered to the Kanab Center in May, where future shuttles will charge overnight.

Jeff Bradybaugh, superintendent of Zion, said the trail system is a “tremendous recreational asset” and emphasized the need for visitors to “create” as part of their recreation.

“It’s so important for us to be out in nature, to explore our cultural sites to regenerate our spirit,” he said.

The ribbon-cutting is the first event of the eighth annual Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit held in Kanab, which will continue through Thursday.

“The Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit is a gathering place for all sectors of the outdoor

recreation industry to build a vision together for the future, health, and vitality of outdoor

recreation in Utah,” a press release said.

Funding and land for the East Zion Initiative came through land grants and easements from private landowners, donations to the Zion Forever Project, funding through the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation Grant, The National Park Foundation, Kane County, the release said. E-bikes for a ride through the new trail were provided by Magnum.

“So as we think about moving ahead, and we think about recreating, and we think about renewing our spirit. Let’s remember that our work is not done,” Bradybaugh said.

 

 

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Salt Lake City School District’s Transition to Clean Fuel

The Salt Lake City School District  (SLCSD) unveiled 500 solar panels situated on top of canopies at a bus barn located on the Westside of Salt Lake City. School officials say the solar panels will produce enough energy to power 45 percent of the facility including block heaters. The 500 solar panels cost the district upwards of $400,000 paid for in part by a $180,000 grant from Blue Ski Solar Energy.  The district says it plans to install 500 more solar panels on a west facing canopy, doing so will help the district run this bus facility on 95 percent solar energy. 

The district says this specific area was chosen because environmental studies show Salt Lake’s west side has some of the highest levels of pollution in the state, and the bus routes in this area will allow the district to utilize the buses to their full potential.  The electric school buses do cost more than traditional buses, but the higher purchase price will be offset by savings in fuel and maintenance costs. The real benefit is the environmental impact. The electric school buses are zero-emissions vehicles and are extremely quiet. Each panel has a 25 year life expectancy and supports the district’s commitment to alternative fuels, clean transportation and sustainable energy.

Every day, Utah’s fleet of 2,987 school buses provided transportation to 195,000 children. Out of this amount, which includes 41 school districts and charter schools, the vast majority run on diesel. To reduce emissions and adopt alternative sources of fuels, school districts are integrating compressed natural gas (CNG) buses that emit 40 to 86% less particulate matter into the air than diesel buses.      

Earlier this year, Salt Lake City School District introduced four Micro Bird electric school buses into its fleet. These electric buses replaced some of the district’s aging diesel buses. The district says the electric school buses, which are reportedly the first for the district and the state, were partially funded through the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ’s) Volkswagen settlement program and Utah Clean Diesel Program (UCDP). 

“The District has been looking into all alternative-fuel school buses for several years, but when we were made aware of the grants available through DEQ, it gave us a shot of motivation to move forward with the electric buses,” Fleet Manager Ken Martinez said. 

Currently, SLCSD has a total of 100 buses in their fleet and intends to convert 20% to 25% of those buses to electric, with an eventual goal of converting 70% to 75% of its fleet to electric, according to the DEQ. The agency said that the district is also updating its bus depot to accommodate charging stations for the new electric buses. The charging stations will reportedly be housed under canopies equipped with solar panels that may eventually be used to provide part of the power to the buses

EV Grants 

SLCSD took advantage of grant money from the The Department of Air Quality’s Volkswagen (VW) Environmental Mitigation Trust. The state of Utah is a beneficiary of  $35 million. SLCSD received two rounds of funding from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality totaling more than $1.5 million which helped the district retire some of its older diesel-powered buses. The district says these grant money helped them purchase the new EV fleet.

Other Incentives

There are other federal incentives people can take advantage of when working to transition from a gas vehicle to an electrical vehicle. All-electric and plug-in hybrid cars purchased new or after 2010 may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The credit amount will vary based on the capacity of the battery used to power the vehicle. State and/or local incentives may also apply. Small neighborhood electric vehicles do not qualify for this credit, but they may qualify for another credit.

 

Utility/Private Incentives