Natural gas vehicle bill heads to Perry’s desk

The Texas Senate sent a bill to Gov. Rick Perry’s Desk Thursday afternoon that will establish incentives for companies to buy natural gas-fueled vehicles and help fund fueling stations in the “Texas Triangle” between Houston, San Antonio and Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Senate Bill 20 would redirect the funds from the existing Texas Emissions Reduction Program — which replaces or retrofits heavy-duty construction equipment and other vehicles that emit high levels of pollution with less noxious equipment — toward those that specifically use natural gas. Here’s a summary of the bill by the House Research Organization.

Natural gas producers have been big supporters of the measure (and similar legislation in other states and at the federal level) because it would expand the market for natural gas, which has suffered from low prices in recent years due to ample domestic production.

The measures have come to a head in recent weeks as billionaires T. Boone Pickens and the Koch brothers have funded big lobbying efforts on opposite ends of the issue — Pickens on the pro side and the oil refinery-owning Kochs on the anti.

Not all the spending is taking place on K Street or in Austin, however. Apache Corp. recently donated a $1.5 million compressed natural gas fueling station to the City of Houston to run a new fleet of shuttle buses from the city-owned parking lot at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

And Houston-based Waste Management Inc. has been aggressively expanding the use of CNG in its fleet of trash trucks.

Jim Hackett, CEO of Anadarko Petroleum and Chairman of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, praised passage of Senate Bill 20, singling out Sen. Tommy Williams (R–The Woodlands), Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin), House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst for the bill’s passage.

“This legislation will foster the development of a Texas Clean Transportation Triangle by increasing the number of natural gas-refueling stations and replacing the heaviest fuel-hungry diesel trucks with natural gas-powered trucks, thus improving Texas’ air quality and economy,” Hackett said in a statement.

“At least 10 percent of the U.S. transportation sector travels through the Triangle each year, and the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates this number will increase significantly over the next 25 years,” Hackett added.

Using more nat-gas vehicles in the region over a four-year period would be the equivalent of taking more than 175,000 cars off Texas highways, he said.