GarCo supports natural gas for vehicles, needs station built in area

Employees of the county that leads the state in natural gas production soon may be driving three new vehicles powered by the fuel.

Garfield County commissioners have agreed to have the county buy the vehicles, but the purchases hinge on a proposal going forward to build a compressed natural gas fueling station in Rifle.

The Western Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association praised the county’s decision.

“Embracing CNG vehicles today helps strengthen western Colorado’s natural gas industry tomorrow,” Executive Director David Ludlam said in a news release.

In February, the group wrote U.S. Rep. John Salazar, asking for the Democrat’s help in supporting the use of natural gas vehicles. The group is particularly concerned about the lack of a public CNG station on Interstate 70 in western Colorado, which forces truckers to rely on stations in Denver and central Utah.

Salazar said in a recently released statement, “Developing an infrastructure for vehicles using compressed natural gas makes sense. As we consider energy legislation in the weeks ahead, I will explore options on how best to encourage the growth of CNG distribution facilities not only in Colorado, but across the country.”

Salazar already is a co-sponsor of an alternative transportation fuels bill that includes a provision to extend and increase a tax credit for investing in natural gas fueling stations.

Kirk Swallow, president of Swallow Oil in Rifle, hopes to hear by May from the Governor’s Energy Office regarding a grant application for a Rifle CNG station.

He also has been going through the town zoning process for a possible station in Parachute.

Swallow said he definitely plans to open at least one of the two stations, but doesn’t yet know which one it will be.

Garfield County Manager Ed Green said it will be practical for the county to buy the CNG vehicles only if a Rifle station is opened.

The county plans to pay Glenwood Springs Ford about $12,000 per vehicle to convert three Ford Fusions so they can run on not just gasoline, but natural gas.

Green said the county may recover at least half the cost of the conversions through the cheaper per-mile fuel cost of natural gas. But the county hopes its investment will help pay off for the community as a whole by helping get filling stations in place to support more vehicle use of natural gas.

The county also is planning this year to convert three vehicles already in its fleet, and Green said it hopes to continue to switch to CNG vehicles at about the same rate in future years, “as long as it makes sense.”


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