Florida is the latest state to be looking at legislation tailored to increasing the adoption of natural gas vehicles (NGVs), with companion bills being introduced in the state House and Senate late last week.
Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and Rep. Lake Ray (R-Jacksonville) filed their bills – S.B.560 and H.B. 579, respectively – on Friday. Known as the Florida Natural Gas Vehicle Act, the legislation represents a key advancement for the Florida Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (FNGVC), which launched last year specifically to promote progressive NGV-related policies in the state.
Indeed, both Ray and Simpson have pointed to the ‘broad coalition of business interests’ that are supporting these measures – and the support is not coming solely from energy companies. Compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling infrastructure developers such as Clean Energy Fuels, Trillium CNG and Nopetro – along with natural gas companies like Peoples Gas, Okaloosa Gas District and Florida Natural Gas – are among FNGVC stakeholders. But major fleets, including UPS, Lowe's, Cone Distributing, J.J. Taylor Inc. and U.S. Sugar, have also thrown support behind the legislation.
S.B.560 and H.B. 579, the language of which are identical, do not implement tax increases. Rather, the legislation seeks to replace the existing tax structure for natural gas as a transportation fuel – which is based on a decal system – with a new structure that behaves exactly like Florida's tax approach for diesel fuel.
The bills also include natural gas excise-tax exemptions for local, state and federal government vehicles, all natural gas engines used in agricultural, and purchases between fuel retailers.
Moreover, the legislation provides an exemption from the local-government infrastructure surtax. This measure is being pursued in order to allow natural gas refueling equipment to achieve parity with electric vehicle charging equipment and other energy-efficient measures.
But perhaps most noteworthy is the legislation's creation of the Natural Gas Fuel Vehicle Investment Program. Rebates for NGV purchases or conversions, which would be funded through the State Comprehensive Enhanced Transportation System tax, would help jump-start the marketplace by helping to defray the up-front costs of NGVs.
The legislation calls for approximately $12 million annually to be available over a five-year period.
Simpson's office tells NGT News that the bills will be referred to House and Senate committees this week. Until legislators begin discussing the measures, the bills' probability of passage is a bit murky. Stay tuned.