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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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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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Why Utah aims to be the ‘hydrogen hub for the crossroads of the West’

Posted on October 19, 2021

By Carter Williams with KSL Radio

Article 

SALT LAKE CITY — As a trailer holding a hydrogen-power generator remained open parked next to the steps of the Utah Capitol, an attendee of a Utah event highlighting the future of the alternative fuel sources peered in to see how it worked.

“This is impressive,” he muttered, staring at one of the hydrogen storage devices inside the trailer.

The scene may have looked futuristic to some. The hydrogen-powered generator was hauled in by a truck powered by methane-captured natural gas and the zero-emission device was also being used to power an electric vehicle.

But the scene wasn’t futuristic at all. It was very much in the present — and all three power sources are growing in Utah.

“The future of (advanced) fuels is here … those are all fuels that are here in Utah,” said Scott Brandeberry, the CEO of Lancer Energy, a Utah-based company that focuses on turning hydrogen and methane into energy, referencing the three energy sources of the items parked outside of the building.

Tuesday’s event — hosted by Lancer Energy and the Utah Clean Cities Coalition — showcased how Utah is making massive strides in hydrogen and other advanced fuel sources. Hydrogen, renewable natural gas (methane), and electric vehicles can all drastically improve Utah’s air quality not just in the future but now, the event organizers said.

It brought in dozens of energy investors from all over the country to Utah so they could see firsthand how hydrogen and other advanced fuels can reshape the future of transportation and energy.

As Rep. Melissa Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, put it: “We’re going to be the hydrogen hub for the crossroads of the West.”

“We have the opportunity at utility-scale to produce and distribute from many applications and we have Utah manufacturers who are making these applications for Utahns and also to be distributed across the country,” she continued.

Attendees of an event highlighting the future of the alternative fuel check out a display of renewable natural gas, hydrogen and electric vehicles Tuesday.
Tuesday’s event also highlighted efforts within the renewable natural gas (converting methane into energy) and electric vehicle fields, which can also help reduce vehicle emissions. For instance, Ballard pointed to projects in Utah that have the ability to capture methane from hog farms and wastewater and turn it into energy.

However, hydrogen was the star of the show.

All in on hydrogen

Tammie Bostick, the executive director for Utah Clean Cities Coalition, said the Beehive State is now among the leader of the nation in hydrogen fuel deployment. There are a handful of current and future projects across the state aimed at producing, storing and utilizing hydrogen.

So how did Utah get here and why?

First, hydrogen has actually been classified as an alternative fuel for nearly three decades now. It was included in that category under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Bostick said hydrogen wasn’t exactly a forgotten alternative fuel source all these years but it was certainly underutilized in the energy sector.

“I think we were so heavily dependent on two fuels, gas and diesel, and all of our national interests were invested in that. So hydrogen was just essentially part of the drilling process but wasted or captured and used in a small way,” she said. “But it is a very strong and powerful fuel.”

The Department of Energy points out that a hydrogen fuel cell paired with an electric motor is “two to three times more efficient” than a traditional internal combustion engine that runs on gasoline. It also only emits water vapor and warm air, so it is considered a zero-emission source.

That captured the attention of Utah lawmakers in recent years, especially members of the bipartisan Utah Clean Air Caucus, as they searched for solutions on how to reduce carbon emissions and improve the state’s air quality. Per a report from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute published last year, Utah emitted about 59 tons of carbon dioxide in 2016 and averages about 19.3 metric tons per person annually. Researchers say vehicles account for roughly half of the pollution produced.

There have been a handful of bills proposed and even passed in the Utah Legislature regarding hydrogen in recent years, with a push to increase production and fueling stations in the state. Ballard said Utah will open its first hydrogen fueling station early next year; there are currently just three states that currently have stations.

The $150 million public infrastructure district that the Utah Inland Port Authority passed last week also includes funding for a future hydrogen refueling station. Jack Hedge, the executive director of the Utah Inland Port Authority, spoke briefly on the Utah Inland Port refueling station project. The plan calls for it to include renewable natural gas and electric vehicle stations, in addition to hydrogen.

Hedge referred to trucks as the “lifeblood of the economy” because 90% of all goods are transported by them; however, he pointed out that diesel-fueled trucks produce a heavy amount of carbon emissions among the vehicles on Utah roads. He said it’s why the port authority sought funding for alternative fuels.

In a somewhat similar context, Ballard said there’s a bill in the works for the 2022 legislative session that will “strongly encourage” Utah freight switchers — trains that move goods around railyards — to convert to zero-emission sources beginning in 2025. Some companies are already looking at hydrogen as an alternative for freight trains.

An electric vehicle is charged by a hydrogen power generator during an event outside of the Utah Capitol Tuesday.

In addition to freight, Bostick said she’s thrilled about a future plant in Kane County that will capture methane from wastewater and turn it into hydrogen. The byproduct will then be converted into electricity that will run electric vehicle shuttles at the east entrance of Zion National Park.

Kim Frost, the executive director for Utah Clean Air Partnership, otherwise known as UCAIR, said it’s “exciting” to learn about the potential of hydrogen. That’s because she believes it can aid the key reason that got Utah interested in the first place.

“Using hydrogen along with other alternative fuel vehicles, such as electric and hybrid, for transportation, has the potential to be incredibly beneficial to improving our air here in Utah,” she said.

A ‘promising new future’

Hydrogen has also captured the attention of national leaders for the same reason Utah leaders zeroed in on it. President Joe Biden earlier this year set a target for the U.S. to cut its greenhouse gas pollution in half by 2030 and hydrogen was listed as one of the ways to do it.

“The United States can address carbon pollution from industrial processes by supporting carbon capture as well as new sources of hydrogen — produced from renewable energy, nuclear energy, or waste — to power industrial facilities,” White House officials wrote in April. “The government can use its procurement power to support early markets for these very low- and zero-carbon industrial goods.”

Producers of hydrogen energy feel also confident about its future. Mauricio Vargas, the CEO of New Mexico-based energy company Bayotech, which manufactures the hydrogen-powered generator that was on display Tuesday and will oversee that future hydrogen refueling station at the Inland Port, said the company’s hydrogen technology is already “at parity” with diesel in cost.

Hydrogen fuel cells, Bostick added, aren’t just a possible solution to emissions challenges; they can also help overcome barriers to other alternative sources. Case in point, it can be paired with solar electricity to help run battery cells at night.

All of these are helping the industry grow. Bayotech, for example, received an investment of up to $157 million earlier this year, allowing it to drastically upscale its business. In addition to Lancer and Bayotech, Big Navajo Energy, Dominion Energy, Renewable Innovations and Stadler Rail are all companies with ties in Utah to produce hydrogen or build products with it, according to Utah Clean Cities.

For Vargas, his business’s growth is proof that energy innovation can be both impactful and lucrative.

“Clean energy products like this provide tens of millions of dollars in direct investment and create high-value jobs,” he said. “It offers opportunities for a state to pivot to a promising new future.”

 

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Utah Clean Cities Awarded $1.8 Million in Federal Funding for Electric Vehicle Adoption

  MAY 16, 2021

Salt Lake City-based nonprofit Utah Clean Cities was awarded $1.8 million in federal funding last month for the advancement of electric vehicles in the state.

The $1.8 million comes from a partnership between Utah Clean Cities and the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Vehicle Technologies program.

According to Utah Clean Cities, the money will go towards efforts to further the adoption of electric vehicles in the state for both personal and commercial uses.

In a prepared statement, Utah Clean Cities said the infrastructure and education for the transition to electric vehicle technology must be in place for large scale adoption of electric vehicles to be successful.

Executive Director of Utah Clean Cities, Tammie Bostick said: “This project will allow Utah Clean Cities to further develop the electrification movement for both passenger vehicles and fleet vehicles within our state while sharing valuable expertise with our regional and national partners.”

The Park City City Council formally adopted new regulations regarding their electric vehicle infrastructure last November. The changes now require dedicated parking, infrastructure, and charging stations to support electric vehicles in new development and redevelopment projects.

Going forward, 20% of all new off-street parking in the city must be electric vehicle friendly with pre-installed underground wiring in place to support future charging stations. Additionally, 5% of new parking spaces must now have an electric vehicle charging station installed.

More information on Utah Clean Cities and the Department of Energy grant can be found here.

KPCW news reports on climate change issues are brought to you by the Park City Climate Fund at the Park City Community Foundation, an initiative that engages Park City in implementing local, high-impact climate solutions that have potential to be effective in similar communities.

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Utah joins 14-state partnership to advance infrastructure for electric vehicles

Posted at 12:02 PM, May 03, 2021 and last updated 12:12 PM, May 03, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is joining 13 other states, the Department of Energy, and special interest groups to advance the infrastructure for electric vehicles in the United States.

The “Drive Electric USA” group aims to “engage individuals, utilities, legislators, dealerships and others towards removing adoption barriers and accelerating plug-in electric vehicle use in our states,” according to the organization’s website.

According to Utah Clean Cities, another group involved in the initiative, Utah is already ahead of the curve with its EV infrastructure. The state has more than 50 DC fast-charge stations.

“Utah’s focus will be building out rural and state highways. So, we’ll be focusing on gateway communities around national parks, and state and scenic byways, so that’s really exciting,” said Tammie Bostick, Executive Director, Utah Clean Cities.

Drive Electric USA’s plans include setting up EV “chapters” in the participating states, educating utilities and regulation officials, engaging in EV infrastructure planning, increasing the adoption of electric vehicle-based fleets, and working dealers to develop preferred dealer programs.