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Texas Lawmakers Authorize Legislation To Keep Emissions Reduction Plan Alive

AUSTIN, Texas — The 85th Legislature gave all Texans a surprising bit of good news when they extended the programs for the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP), which was set to expire in 2019.

TERP is the second largest air pollution reduction program in Texas, and since its inception in 2001 it has become the most cost-effective way to reduce air pollution in the state.

Only hours before the final deadline to pass a “Conference Committee Report,” the Texas Legislature approved SB 1731, which included an amendment to reform and expand TERP. In response, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, Public Citizen and Environmental Defense Fund — who have supported and worked with legislators and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since 2001 on TERP implementation — praised lawmakers for their efforts, but issued a warning: the Legislature must actually appropriate the money now.

“We salute the Texas Legislature for extending and expanding TERP programs so that Texas actually complies with EPA’s health-based standards for ozone pollution in our major cities,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter. “However, the Legislature failed to extend the fees that pay for the program, and the budget bill actually cut appropriations for TERP by some $80 million over two years, subject to a possible adjustment by the Legislative Budget Board. This will need to be fixed for the program to work as it should.”

Recent polling has found that TERP has strong support in Houston, where air pollution is a constant problem. “We’re glad that the Legislature responded to the concerns of Houstonians,” said Adrian Shelley, director of the Public Citizen Texas office. “One of the major improvements for TERP under SB 1731 is the provision to allow more money to be spent in rail yards and port yards, where we have the greatest air pollution concentrations,” he added.

“We’re pleased that TERP has been extended and now includes modifications that will allow more cost-effective projects at ports,” said Christina Wolfe, Manager, Air Quality, Port and Freight Facilities at the Texas office of the Environmental Defense Fund. “There is plenty of work ahead of us to ensure that all Texans breathe healthy air, so we appreciate the Texas Legislature taking this first step in recognizing the importance of TERP. Now we need them to ensure the programs are funded.”

The bill to extend and expand the program had a somewhat tortured history. After passing the Senate early in the session, SB 26 by Craig Estes (R- Wichita Falls) was then referred to the House Committee on Environmental Regulation. There, clean air advocates — which included environmental groups like EDF, Sierra Club and Public Citizen, and industry groups like the Texas Chemical Council, the Texas Association of Business and electric utilities — worked with Chairman Joe Pickett (D – El Paso), Rep. Brooks Landgraf (D-Odessa), Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Houston) and Rep. Tony Dale (R- Round Rock) to craft a revised version of SB 26, which put more emphasis on the most cost-effective programs, including the revised Seaport and Rail Yards program to clean up pollution from equipment at our ports and railyards.

However, the House version of SB 26 was put late on the calendar and the House of Representatives did not get to the bill when the deadine of midnight occurred on May 23rd. Then, versions of SB 26 were added to three other bills as amendments, though two of them were not taken up. Finally, on May 29th, at approximately 9:30 PM, both houses passed the TERP bill as part of SB 1731 by Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) and Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas).

While the groups behind the TERP legislation were happy with the passage SB 1731, some last-minute confusion on the budget made it unclear how much TERP is actually funded for the next two years. During last-minute budget negotiations, TERP funding was cut from approximately $118 million per year to $78 million per year, and a contingency rider that was supposed to restore funding if a TERP bill passed was not in the final version of the budget.

In addition, separate legislation to extend the six fees that actually fund TERP did not pass, meaning the Legislature will need to come back in 2019 to extend them if the programs are to continue.

“We call on Governor Abbot to not only sign SB 1731 into law, but call back the Legislative Budget Board to adjust the budget to reflect its passage and return the nearly $40 million a year that was cut to fund these new programs,” added Reed. “Ultimately, the Legislature is going to have to decide how important it is to get the dirty air in our cities cleaned up and extend the fees — and spend the revenues — to help our children, the elderly and those with asthma to be able to breathe clean air.”

Leading the Charge: Resources to Support Workplace Charging

What factors do employers need to consider when establishing a workplace charging program?

While there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for workplace charging, there are a number of resources available to help employers design, implement, and manage the right program for their organization.

Assess Demand

Employers considering whether workplace charging is right for their organization will want to start by assessing employee demand with an employee survey. Once this assessment is complete, employers may set goals for meeting workplace charging demand, either by planning to meet the entire need (i.e., all drivers that have expressed or will express interest in PEV charging) or by dedicating a percentage of parking spaces to PEV charging. For example, Google has a goal to dedicate 5% of all parking spaces to workplace charging.

Procure and Install

Employers should determine what types of charging stations to purchase. There are a few decisions to make, including the following:

  • Charging Level: There are benefits and drawbacks to both Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations in the workplace. Employers must evaluate which option is best for their facilities. For more information about the differences between charging levels and their merits for workplace charging, see the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Workplace Charging Station Basics page.
  • Networking: Charging station networks provide maintenance, customer service, and energy monitoring capabilities, and collect payment on behalf of the station owner. However, networks require a fee, and employers will need to consider whether the convenience of charging networks outweighs the financial cost. For more information, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Level 2 page.

Employers should also be sure to get quotes from a number of charging station providers. For more guidance, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Sample Request for Proposal document. Employers will work with their electrical contractor to determine charging station placement; station installation can be an expensive process, but employers can minimize costs by siting stations in locations that require minimal trenching, boring, and electrical panel upgrades. For more information about siting and installation, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Equipment and Installation Costs page.

Manage

A well-managed, well-planned workplace charging program can ensure station access to all employees, promote strong communication between employers and station users, and encourage responsible station use.

  • Registration and Liability: Many employers require employees to register their PEV, which allows the employer to identify the number of vehicles using their charging stations. For example, employers can give registered vehicles a mirror hangtag or window sticker that identifies the vehicle as having permission to use the charging stations. A registration form may also include language that requires vehicle owners to agree not to hold the employer responsible for any damage to the vehicle that occurs while it is parked at the charging station. For more information, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Registration and Liability page.
  • Station Sharing: It is important to emphasize that workplace charging is a privilege, not a right. Employees may be obligated to share stations with their colleagues and comply with established charging time limits. While an employer can set up systems for sharing stations, such as reserving the station (similar to how an employee would reserve a conference room) or establishing a set schedule for use, most employers allow users to resolve station-sharing conflicts themselves. However, it is important to establish consequences for violating station policies, such as using a station for less than four hours. By framing workplace charging as a privilege, an employer reserves the right to restrict access for employees that routinely violate company policy. For more information about how to establish workplace charging policies and encourage station sharing, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Station Sharing page.
  • Pricing: While most employers offer workplace charging for free, charging for station use can be a good way to manage demand. Employers may charge for electricity (e.g., per kilowatt hour) or for time (e.g., per hour), depending on preference and applicable regulations. Employers can motivate employees to move their vehicles and share the stations by charging a nominal fee (or no fee) for the first set number of hours (e.g., four hours) and then raise the fee for subsequent time that the vehicle is parked in the space. For more information, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging Pricing page.

For more resources about workplace charging, see the DOE’s Workplace Charging website or explore the Clean Cities’ Workplace Charging Toolkit.

What are state and local governments doing to incentivize alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs)?

There are many notable incentive activities at the state and local levels. Many states offer incentives for alternative fuels that advance specific environmental and energy security goals, while cities provide even more localized support.

 

States are targeting vehicles, infrastructure, and other means to encourage AFV adoption. Below are various types of incentives, as well as hyperlinked examples of each:

  • AFV Purchase Incentives: States offer grants, rebates, and tax credits for the purchase of AFVs. While some states may focus vehicle incentives on a particular fuel type, such as electric vehicles, others are more general in their support. States provide AFV purchase incentives to consumers, commercial fleets, and public fleets, such as schools and government agencies. Different incentive mechanisms tend to be more appropriate for different categories of vehicle purchasers; for example, grants are often limited to certain types of entities. Public fleets may not be liable for taxes, so they usually benefit more from grants than from tax credits. Private fleets can benefit from grants, rebates, and tax credits.
  • Fueling Infrastructure Purchase and Installation Incentives: Similar to AFV incentives, states provide grants,rebates, and tax credits for alternative fueling infrastructure. States usually create incentives for the physical fueling infrastructure, but many programs also support installation costs. Some states also offer a tax creditor tax reduction for the production or purchase of alternative fuel itself. Fueling infrastructure incentives may stipulate that the fueling or charging station must be available to the public, which helps to increase the availability of alternative fuels to a broader range of entities.
  • Other Incentives: In addition to financial support for the purchase of AFVs, states may give special benefits to AFV drivers. For example, some states allow high-occupancy vehicle lane access to AFVs, while others provide reduced registration fees, weight restriction exemptions, and emissions inspections exemptions.

 

Municipalities are also playing a role in supporting AFV deployment. Cities and counties incentivize AFVs in a number of ways, including by offering free or discounted parking, expediting permitting processes, and providing vehicle and infrastructure grants. For example, New Haven, CT, provides free parking on city streets for AFVs, while Los Angeles, CA, offers instant, online residential electric vehicle supply equipment permitting approval. The Alternative Fuels Data Center’s (AFDC) Local Laws and Incentives page provides more information on these and a greater array of other local options; while the page regarding local laws and incentives is not meant to be comprehensive, it provides users an idea of the different municipal programs and policies that exist (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/local_examples). If you are aware of an innovative way that municipalities are supporting alternative fuels and vehicle acquisition, please contact the Clean Cities Technical Response Service attechnicalresponse@icf.com to share the details.

 

For more information about state and local alternative fuel incentives, see the AFDC Laws and Incentives page (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws).

 

Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team

technicalresponse@icf.com

800-254-6735

How is the propane industry improving the customer fueling experience through new technology?

As propane vehicle technology becomes more advanced, propane dispensing infrastructure has evolved along with it. In particular, the propane industry is focusing much of its attention on enhancing the customer fueling experience by installing propane dispensers that are dedicated for vehicle fueling, and by upgrading the propane nozzle technology. The increasingly popular European-style, quick-connect nozzle simplifies the customer fueling experience by connecting to the fuel tank through a snap or quick-connect attachment, rather than a conventional threaded connection. Only after the nozzle is safely connected to the fuel tank will it begin to dispense fuel. This attachment eliminates the threading connection necessary with the conventional Acme nozzle, making propane fueling as easy as conventional gasoline fueling.

With the new nozzle, fueling can be completed using only one hand and without wearing protective goggles and gloves. The quick-connect attachment also results in lower emissions, as it more effectively prevents the release of fuel vapor and fumes. Additionally, the nozzle’s design minimizes the amount of fuel that escapes when the vehicle is done fueling and the connector is detached from the vehicle.

There are many affordable quick-connect nozzle options available on the United States market that meet UL 125 certification requirements (https://standardscatalog.ul.com/standards/en/standard_125). Manufacturers of these UL-certified nozzles include Stäubli and ELAFLEX. These European-style connectors are priced around $1,200, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (https://cleancities.energy.gov/files/u/news_events/document/document_url/96/2015_strategic_planning_propane.pdf). The cost of the connection adapters, or fill valves, required for current fueling infrastructure to be compatible with the European-style nozzle, ranges from $50 to $60. Note that the installation of a new fueling nozzle should always be performed by a qualified technician in order to ensure that it is completed properly.

Many propane retailers are optimistic about the European-style, quick-connect nozzle. In fact, the Propane Education Research Council (PERC) highlights its benefits and encourages the use of this connector through its Quick-Connect Nozzle Incentive Program (http://www.propanecouncil.org/Our-Work/Our-Work-With-Marketers/Incentive-Programs/Quick-Connect-Nozzle-Incentive-Program/). Moving forward, the quick-connect nozzle is a significant step towards streamlining and improving the propane fueling experience.

 

For more information about propane and related fueling infrastructure, see the following resources:

LSCFA Helps Hold NFPA First Responder Alt Fuel Class

Feb. 1, 2017

LSCFA  recently partnered with West Virginia Clean Cities to hold one of numerous National Fire Preparedness Association (NFPA) taught First Responder alt fuel classes across the United States, 55 persons from as far away as Abilene registered for the Train the Trainer class on alt fuel vehicles held in Temple, Tx.   Taught by James Plaster and Justin Emory with the National Fire Protection Association, the day long class safety training class presented information on how to identify alt fuel vehicle types, fuel qualities, cylinder specs and safety features, how to identify the different alt fuel  vehicles according to  manufacturer, as well as  general procedures and  considerations for alt fuel vehicles crash response and  extrication .  As Hybrids, electric vehicles ad plug in vehicles are a large component of our on road traffic, emphasis was given to  extractions and crashes involving Hybrids and electric vehicles, damaged high voltage batteries,  the various types of batteries  found in these vehicles and how to identify.

The information and  manual provided vehicle specific information drawn from manufacturer Emergency Response guides, and guidance on initial response procedures and situations such as vehicle fire, submersion and spills.

A natural gas overview was provided by Dmitri Tisnoi –  TDIndustires, our   lunch sponsor. Demonstration vehicles included a Nissan LEAF from nearby BATES Nissan, dedicated LPG ½ ton trucks from CleanFuel USA and the City of Temple,  a CNG refuse truck from the City of Temple, and a bi-fuel CNG truck  provided by CNG4America.

Stacy Neef, Exec. Dir.
Lone Star Clean Fuels Alliance

Blue Bird Awarded $4.4 Million to Develop Electric School Bus

Find original article here.

WASHINGTON, DC (Jan 27, 2017) — In December of 2016, the Department of Energy announced that they would be awarding $15M to organizations in an effort to accelerate the adoption of advanced and alternative fuel vehicles. Blue Bird Corporation, a bus manufacturer located in Fort Valley, GA, was presented the largest amount at $4.4M in order to develop a zero-emissions, 100% V2G electric school bus.

 

“As the leader in alternative fuel bus solutions, the addition of an electric school bus rounds out our portfolio,” says Phil Horlock, President and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “Thanks to this award from the Department of Energy, we will be able to pursue the development of this technology based on our many years of research. As we celebrate our 90th anniversary in 2017, the timing of this grant is impeccable!”

 

One of the stipulations of the award is that the bus will be an affordable, ‘low cost’ electric bus solution. Additionally, Blue Bird is looking to implement technology, known as V2G, that will allow the bus to put electricity back into the grid – which may help bring much-needed funds to school districts. “This initiative will provide resources to explore alternative fuels for school transportation while sending energy back to the grid,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. “The development of a low-cost electric school bus is an investment that could save state resources in the long term. We are excited to see Blue Bird develop this new technology here in Georgia.”

 

“Blue Bird has a solid reputation and the company has been an asset to Georgia’s economy,” said U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson. “I applaud the decision by the Department of Energy and other entities to award this funding to a company that continues to make a positive impact.”

 

However, Blue Bird is not unfamiliar with this technology. “We were first to market with an electric school bus in 1994,” explained Dennis Whitaker, Vice President of Product Development for Blue Bird. “Since then, we have been closely monitoring this technology, and have found that recent battery management advances have made this project viable. We should see our first new Blue Bird electric school bus in 2019.”

 

As a zero-emissions vehicle, this electric bus will be able to take away thousands of pounds of particulate matter from the air, making a positive impact on the environment, and the children these buses transport. “I am thrilled that Blue Bird has been awarded this grant by the Department of Energy,” said U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop, representative of Middle and Southwest Georgia. “Not only has Blue Bird contributed to the local community for over 90 years by providing jobs, but it has also produced a multitude of ‘green’ vehicles in recent years. I am excited to see they are now able to produce even more solutions that positively impact the environment and future generations of bus riders.”

 

According to Michael Simon, President and CEO of TransPower, this electric bus solution could also create additional jobs throughout the US. “Once these electric buses go into production, there is a huge potential for job growth,” said Simon. “Supplying electric drive components for say, 500 buses a year, would have the potential to create up to 250 new jobs in California.”

 

Kevin Matthews, Managing Director for National Strategies, whose firm developed the application and will serve as project manager, stated that; “This project will take us far down the road to deploying and operating a Zero Emission School Bus that is cost effective for school district across the United States. We thank DoE for this award, and applaud Blue Bird’s leadership in this arena.”

 

Combined with matching funding from other public and private entities in California, the total project funding will be over $9M and result in an eight bus demonstration fleet deployed in California by 2019.

 

About Blue Bird Corporation: Blue Bird (Nasdaq: BLBD) is the leading independent designer and manufacturer of school buses, with more than 550,000 buses sold since its formation in 1927 and approximately 180,000 buses in operation today. Blue Bird’s longevity and reputation in the school bus industry have made it an iconic American brand. Blue Bird distinguishes itself from its principal competitors by its singular focus on the design, engineering, manufacture and sale of school buses and related parts. As the only manufacturer of chassis and body production specifically designed for school bus applications, Blue Bird is recognized as an industry leader for school bus innovation, safety, product quality/reliability/durability, operating costs and drivability. In addition, Blue Bird is the market leader in alternative fuel applications with its propane-powered and compressed natural gas-powered school buses. Blue Bird manufactures school buses at two facilities in Fort Valley, Georgia. Its Micro Bird joint venture operates a manufacturing facility in Drummondville, Quebec, Canada. Service and after-market parts are distributed from Blue Bird’s parts distribution center located in Delaware, Ohio. For more information on Blue Bird’s complete line of buses, visit www.blue-bird.com.

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