New Castle News

Closer Look

April 26, 2013

State promotes natural gas fuel conversion

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania already has spent at least $3.65 million to help businesses convert trucks and buses to natural gas fuel.

The Act 13 natural gas impact fee law passed in 2012 includes another $20 million to do the same thing.

Now, the state House has approved another $55 million in tax credits to persuade businesses and mass transit agencies to switch to natural gas.

While the state has been helping businesses, there is little push to help the public switch to natural gas, despite the fact that the fuel is about half the cost of gasoline. And a Cambria County lawmaker thinks there has been too little direct attention paid toward establishing stations that sell natural gas.

The federal Alternative Fuel Data Center lists 18 natural gas stations in Pennsylvania.

That is half of the number of natural gas stations in New York, which still does not allow fracking, the controversial process used to extract natural gas from the ground.

California has the most natural gas stations – with 162. There are 578 compressed natural gas stations in the country.

Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Cambria County tried unsuccessfully to get the state to triple the amount available in tax credits for those who invest in establishing natural gas stations.

A package of bills passed by the state House last week included $5 million in tax credits to encourage gas stations to begin selling compressed natural gas. The legislation provides funding for 10 tax credits worth $500,000 each.

Barbin had proposed boosting the amount available for tax credits by $10 million — enough to encourage another 20 projects.

Barbin’s amendment was voted down along party lines. The House then voted in favor of the legislation that would provide the tax credits for 10 gas stations.

The same package of bills included $55 million in tax credits to reward bus companies and others who set up commercial fleets using natural gas as fuel.

Barbin said that makes no sense.

“They are doing the wrong thing first,” Barbin said.

Barbin said the state would have been better off to levy more of a tax on natural gas drilling. That money could have been used to spur the expansion of natural gas fueling stations early on. Instead, the state didn’t act quickly enough and natural gas prices plummeted as Marcellus drilling helped supply far outstripped demand.

“They should not be picking winners and losers,” Barbin said.

In 2011, the state announced that an Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant program had provided $3.65 million for natural gas-fueled buses, trucks and natural gas fueling stations.

A separate $10 million round of funding through that same grant program will be used later this year to help pay for more alternative fuel vehicles for local municipalities and school districts.

On top of that, Act 13, the gas impact fee law, provides $20 million to help pay for natural gas vehicles in commercial fleets.

The first round of funding from that Act 13 pot, totaling $10 million, will be announced in the next few weeks, said Lynda Rebarchack, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Nearly 50 companies have applied for a share of that money, she said. Three companies in Somerset and Cambria counties are among those trying to get some of the Act 13 dollars.

Burgmeir Hauling is seeking funding to help buy 12 natural gas-powered garbage trucks that will operate in Somerset, Cambria and nearby counties.

McAneny Brothers, a wholesale food distributor in Cambria County is seeking help to buy eight trucks and install a natural gas filling station. W.C. McQuaide, a trucking company in Cambria County, is seeking state money to help buy 80 natural gas trucks and install natural gas pumping stations at its two terminals.

State Rep. Jaret Gibbons, D-Lawrence County, said that by helping companies convert their fleets to natural gas, the state helps establish foundational customers for natural gas. That way, gas station operators may determine that there are large business customers that will use natural gas, and then add pumps that provide the fuel.

“As we expand, it will become more affordable for individual motorists, but until the network is together, it would be difficult for an individual because you would need to be cognizant of where you are going and where you can fill up,” Gibbons said.

Commercial trucks that use set routes will have an easier time knowing where the natural gas stations are, he said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Closer Look
  • Yauger.jpg Yauger enters guilty plea in federal court

    The former executive director of the local intermediate unit has entered a guilty plea in federal court.

     

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lottery.jpg Lottery officials: Seniors should get smaller payout

    State lottery officials say less means more for seniors. The lottery took in $3.8 billion in sales last year and will give more than $1 billion of it — or 28.5 percent — to programs for senior citizens.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • phone.jpg Attorney general warns of phone scams

    Assorted scams in the commonwealth have prompted a warning from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said several scams have been reported to the Bureau of Consumer Protection in recent weeks.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • disability.jpg Disabilities group unveils new icon

    Disability Options Network is joining forces with the Accessible Icon Project. Officials of the community organization, located at 1929 E. Washington St., said its new icon will replace the current international symbol for accessibility.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • well.jpg Auditor: State doesn’t have enough inspectors to monitor wells

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

     

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • vote.jpg Independent hopefuls may widen gubernatorial field

    Just when Pennsylvania voters were getting used to the idea of a gubernatorial election showdown between Republican incumbent Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, other hopefuls may soon be joining the fray.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • manna.jpg John K. Manna: Measuring the money

    Should we even bother to have an election in November? By some accounts, maybe the results of some contests are already in.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • shooting.jpg Man injured in city shooting

    A man was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital Thursday morning following a shooting on West Lincoln Avenue.

     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • police.jpg Police: Man pulls gun on construction workers

    Construction workers in Neshannock Township flagged down police Thursday claiming a business owner had pulled a gun on them.

     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Shooting witness arrested for giving false name

    State police have arrested a second Detroit area man after questioning him about Sunday’s fatal shooting in Ellwood City. DeMarco Dorian Hoskins, 22, of Highland Park, Mich., was the third man in a private car that transported the deceased to look for a hospital. Hoskins allegedly gave police a false identity when they questioned him as witness.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content
Section Teases
Must Read
Continuous Super Bowl Coverage