Jul. 20, 2012

HARRISBURG--Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) hosted a lunch-and-learn seminar to help school district and municipal officials learn the benefits of using natural gas to fuel their vehicles. Stephens has been a staunch advocate of fueling our cars with natural gas.

“By converting fleets to natural gas, our school districts and municipalities can save money and help the environment,” Stephens said. “Since Pennsylvania is now one of the nation’s leading producers of clean-burning natural gas, we can also help create jobs right here rather than relying on foreign oil.”

About 30 representatives from the Hatboro-Horsham, North Penn, Upper Dublin and Wissahickon School Districts as well as Horsham, Montgomery Township, Upper Dublin, Abington and Ambler Borough attended the event.

The seminar was two hours long and was a well-rounded introduction to the benefits of fleet conversion as well as the programs available to assist with logistics and funding. The list of those presenting at the seminar included: Tim Nelson, UPS Vice President of State Government Affairs; Christina Simeone, PennFuture Energy Center Director; Daniel Lapato, Deputy Director of the Office of External Affairs for the Department of Environmental Protection; Jordan Stitzer, PECO Compressed Natural Gas Program Manager; George Stark, Gas Use Chair at the Marcellus Shale Coalition; and Howard Harris, Clean Energy Business Development Manager.

According to the Department of Energy, when natural gas is used in internal combustion engines, carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are reduced by more than 90 percent and 60 percent, respectively, and carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, is reduced by 30 to 40 percent.

“According to the World Health Organization, diesel exhaust causes cancer,” said Christina Simeone, Energy Center Director for PennFuture, a statewide environmental group. “Converting school buses from diesel to natural gas can provide significant local environmental and public health benefits, especially for children who are the most susceptible to diesel exhaust pollution.”

In 1995, the Lower Merion School District converted 58 buses to natural gas to address environmental and noise pollution issues. Today, the wealthiest school district in the state pays just 75 cents per gallon for fuel. They’ve also reported a dramatic reduction in pollution emanating from their buses according to information Simeone provided to the group.

DEP representative Daniel Lapato, PECO representative Jordan Stitzer and Clean Energy representative Howard Harris discussed different programs to help finance fleet conversions and build fueling stations. Act 13 imposed fees on natural gas drillers to provide $20 million to assist schools, townships and boroughs with converting their fleets. The program covers up to 50 percent of the incremental cost to convert a vehicle up to $25,000.

Hatboro-Horsham School District Superintendent, Dr. Curtis Griffin, attended the seminar and found it to be informative.

“I found the information presented to be very valuable for our future decisions related to our bus fleet, potential cost savings and the safety and wellbeing of our students,” Griffin said. “As the superintendent, I plan to begin discussions this year with our Board of School Directors and other area government agencies to pursue the development of a plan to begin the process to convert a portion of our vehicles to natural gas.”

Local officials also thought the event was worthwhile.

“Today’s seminar was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the benefits of natural gas from a financial and environmental standpoint,” said Ambler Borough Councilman Claudio Zaccone.

“Natural gas vehicles are something we would look forward to getting involved with in the future. We would look to neighboring municipalities to partner with us to help share in the up-front costs and benefits,” said Ambler Borough Councilman Peter Amento.

“Natural gas is a cheaper, cleaner, healthier alternative to diesel and gasoline,” Stephens said. “Converting our school and municipal fleets would help reduce costs for our taxpayers and help protect our students and our environment.”

State Representative Todd Stephens
151st District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

David Foster