regulations may limit availability of natural gas vehicles
February 24, 2009 | LOGAN -- Many feel that the EPA
may be a hindrance to the certification process of vehicles
that run compressed natural gas (CNG).
These vehicles could present an alternative for people
who seek to save fuel money. According to Tammi Godfrey
at the USU motorpool, the cost for a gallon of CNG is
"The EPA has been very slow in certifying engine blocks,
conversion kits, and installers," said state Rep. Jack
Draxler, a member of the natural resources committee
at the Utah House of Representatives, who represents
District 3 in Logan.
Current EPA regulations, based on a letter from 3 Feb. 2006,
which requires manufacturers and importers to apply
for separate certification for each conversion kit for
each car, for each model year. Added requirements
in this letter, titled Updated certification guidance
for alternative fuel converters, also requires expensive
lab tests, and may even ask the applicant send a modified
vehicle for testing at the EPA's facilities in Ann Arbor,
"These tests could cost up to $50,000 for the test
alone, for each certificate," said Matt, a local man
who asked to keep his name and occupation anonymous.
"There are many conversion kits that work on almost
any car out there, but people seeking EPA certification
have to apply for each car type, for every year, even
though some car uses the same engine for several years."
Matt has purchased and installed a kit on his business
vehicle. "I know it is illegal," said Matt, "But what
can I do?" He did not sound too worried about getting
"It is ridiculous," said Matt. "It limits the availability
and cost of these kits to the public. That's why I did
what I did."
The EPA calls these modifications "tampering" and
does say that people can be held liable for illegally
modifying cars. "But there is no one to really enforce
it," said Matt. "The EPA doesn't have many people, and
the state [of Utah] does not have any organization to
deal, check, or enforce these modifications."
"We need to include in our state inspections the capability
to inspect natural gas vehicles," said Draxler. “If
they are not properly installed, and are faulty kits,
they can be dangerous to the people who use them, and
release pollutants into the air.”
He said that installing kits that have not been approved
by the EPA will also deny people the tax breaks available
for owning an alternative fuel vehicle, and may even
keep owners from registering that vehicle. Despite this,
there are many people like Matt who have made these
modifications to their cars.
"The best we can do is to send a clear message to
Washington, and say... do your job," said Draxler. Considering
the current state budget crisis, he does not think that
any new state bureaucracy could be created or funded
to deal with this problem in the near future. However,
he said that the state should have legislation ready
for when the funding does become available.
Draxler brought forth "Concurrent resolution on certification
of compressed natural gas vehicles" (H.R.C. 001),
a House resolution that would ask U.S. Congress and
the Obama administration to change the EPA's system
for certifying new CNG engine blocks and conversion
kits. The resolution has passed both the state House
and Senate, and is ready for the governor to sign into
Gov. John Huntsman also proposed a plan to create
a CNG infrastructure in the state. His plan calls for
the creation of a corridor of CNG fuel stations that
would allow people driving CNG vehicles to refuel their
cars without going out of the way to find a CNG pump.
Here in Logan, the only two places where people can
get CNG for their vehicles is at LW's Truck Stop, and
at the USU motorpool, according to Tammi Godfrey. USU’s
motor pool does require that people apply for a state fuel card.
"When I see EPA, I think it could only mean environmental
procrastination agency," said Matt. Many people in Web
communities such as Pickensplan.com and CNGnow.org seem to reflect Matt's feelings of frustration
with the EPA.
Boone Pickens, founder and chairman of BP Capital
Management, has proposed
Pickens' Plan, which is aimed at ending dependence
on foreign oil. While the proposed plan focuses on using
a wide variety of alternative fuels, the plan suggests
that in the West, where natural gas is plentiful, CNG
be used as one of many ways to reduce foreign oil consumption.
More information can be found that
Pickens' plan web site.
“We have a ton of natural gas here in the West, and
here in Utah," said Draxler. "If we have an abundant
source of fuel, and it doesn’t pollute, and saves people
money, I thought, why are we not doing this?"