As the start of the 2015 legislative session draws near in Utah, state lawmakers have at their feet a bill that would provide a rebate to consumers who retrofit their vehicles to run on compressed natural gas (CNG).
Chief bill sponsor Rep. Stephen G. Handy, R-Layton, tells NGT News the legislation is a clean air initiative. He says the bill, H.B.15, would offer a rebate of up to $2,500 per vehicle and be superior to an existing tax credit program.
‘We have serious air-quality problems along our populous Wasatch Front, where more than 1 million individuals reside,” he explains. “If we can get more traditional-gas vehicles to convert, perhaps our air can be cleaner.”
Since 2008, Utah has had a program that offers tax credits of up to $2,500 for alternative fuel conversions, but Handy calls that program “clunky and somewhat difficult to administer from the consumer's standpoint.” According to a Utah Division of Air Quality report, he says, fewer than 400 vehicle owners have applied for the tax credits.
“My legislation moves the tax credit incentive to a tax rebate or grant program, which I believe will stimulate more demand,” says Handy. “It's easier to administer and should stimulate more conversions.”
He offers an example.
“It would work like this: A consumer goes to his conversion/retrofit provider and makes his deal, let's say it's $5,000,” explains Handy. “He pays $2,500, and the shop invoices the State of Utah for the balance, a maximum of $2,500. So, less out-of-pocket for the consumer and hopefully a quick turnaround – say, 30 days – for the conversion provider.”
Handy has high hopes for the bill, noting the legislation has already been heard twice by interim committees and passed out favorably.
“It's in line for passage with little or no opposition,” he says. “Clean air initiatives are a big priority for us in Utah.”
Handy also wants to bring back H.B.49 this year, a bill to stimulate the use of clean fuels in school buses that passed in 2014 but did not get funding.
Furthermore, he plans on making his case for a bill to provide “modest incentives” for trucking companies to make the switch to natural gas.
“I'm trying to jump-start widespread use of natural gas engines in heavy-duty trucks,” he says. “We already have an income tax credit for small alternative fuel vehicles, but not for large trucks. And it is the large trucks that burn the most fuel and where we can have the largest impact on air quality.”