Official Slaps Down County’s Propane Autogas Plans

Citing environmental and financial concerns, Ulster County, N.Y., Executive Michael Hein vetoed a measure last Friday that would have established a $25,000 propane autogas (LPG) pilot project.

In a 14-9 vote a few days earlier, county lawmakers had approved the plan to retrofit five vans from the local sheriff's office to run on autogas. Supporters said the project would save the county money and help make its fleet greener; meanwhile, opponents claimed that LPG is not a clean alternative fuel and pushed for Hein to veto the resolution.

Explaining his decision in a press release, Hein said, “Simply stated, and after a thorough review by Ulster County's Department of the Environment Coordinator Amanda LaValle, Resolution 314A is not good for our environment, the county's finances or the citizens of Ulster County.”

LaValle, also in the release, said, “Current initiatives including the use of biodiesel in the UCAT bus fleet and plug-in hybrid vehicles will yield 26 times the greenhouse-gas reduction as compared to the propane proposal. In addition, there is negligible, if any, financial benefit to the county in implementing this proposal.”

Hein called the plan a “step backwards” from the county's current sustainability initiatives.

“Trading one fossil fuel for another is not environmentally sensitive, and investing in a vehicle technology that promotes fracking is unconscionable, especially since more sustainable, renewable options are readily available,” he said.

Legislative Chairman John Parete, D-Boiceville, sponsored the measure and previously said that propane autogas was chosen after conducting research and determining which alternative fuel would be the best fit for the sheriff's office.

After the proposal passed last week, a press release from the county's legislature cited the Propane Education and Research Council as saying, “Propane is an approved, clean fuel listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act as well as the National Energy Policy Act of 1992.” The release further pointed to the U.S. Department of Energy, noting that the agency indicates that “using propane as a vehicle fuel increases energy security, provides convenience and performance benefits, and improves public health and the environment.”

According to a Daily Freeman report, Parete charges that Hein vetoed the legislation because the executive chairman did not come up with the proposal.

“There was no policy, no program, no direction to try to figure out how we can start to move forward to update our fleet, to green our fleet, move to renewable and nonrenewable alternative energies,” he said.

The report also suggests Parete might pursue overriding the veto, which would require a two-thirds majority approval.

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