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Pa. towns eye switching municipal vehicles to natural gas

November 21, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Some local governments in Franklin County, Pa., are considering whether converting municipal vehicles to run on natural gas could provide long-term cost savings.

Waynesboro’s borough manager, Lloyd Hamberger, said this week he thinks his municipality could save $1 to $1.25 per gallon equivalent compared to what it pays now for gasoline.

In the Borough of Chambersburg, municipal officials are taking steps to install a fueling facility on a leased site at Exit 14 of Interstate 81. That facility would serve private and commercial fleets as well as any converted municipal vehicles.

“As one of only two municipal gas systems in Pennsylvania, the borough believed compressed natural gas was a great idea to research. ... Additionally, with the borough having three I-81 exits, we are ideally situated to provide convenient compressed natural gas fueling,” said John Leary, gas superintendent for Chambersburg.

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Pennsylvania’s Act 13 of 2012 established $10 million in grants for converting fleets to run on natural gas.

Only newer vehicles can be converted, and the price per vehicle could be $4,000 to $5,000, Hamberger said.

“Depending on the vehicle, you can have payback in a year,” he said.

Police cruisers are an obvious choice for conversion because they use a lot of gasoline, Hamberger said.

The private sector is exploring natural gas options, too.

According to a news release, Waste Management has more than 31 natural gas fueling stations across the country and is developing more. Some of those facilities have fueling stations available to the public.

“In 2012, natural gas vehicles will represent 80 percent of Waste Management’s annual new truck purchases,” the news release stated.

Leary said Chambersburg is working on negotiating fleet fueling agreements with potential customers to ensure the borough has adequate natural gas sales to justify building the station for more than $1 million.

If the process proceeds as scheduled, the station could be operational in the summer of 2013, Leary wrote in an email.

In the Waynesboro area, officials with Washington Township and the school district also are interested in learning more about fleet conversion, according to Hamberger.

“Obviously, we’re not ready to commit,” he said.

Hamberger said he thinks natural gas will become the standard in vehicles in coming years.

“When you look at what’s going on in the Middle East today, the one thing they can’t shut off is the (natural) gas that comes from Pennsylvania wells,” he said.

Hamberger said he would expect to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a filling station in Waynesboro. He said he feels that would make the initiative too cost prohibitive.

Waynesboro Councilman Craig Newcomer said Tuesday he feels the idea of developing a filling station should not be nixed. He said the borough today loses out on revenue from its utility systems because it turned them over to private providers years ago. 

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