Compressed natural gas resolution advances

TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee released a resolution Monday that urges automobile manufacturers to commercially develop and sell compressed natural gas vehicles in New Jersey and throughout the nation.

The resolution, SR81, states that natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, with fewer carbon dioxide, or greenhouse gas, emissions.  It was released unanimously.

One factor that has slowed the adoption of CNG vehicles is the number of vehicles that can be purchased directly from the manufacturer with a CNG-ready engine, since the majority of natural gas vehicles on the road today had their existing engine retrofitted, the measure states.

Jim Walsh and Food & Water Watch opposed the measure, arguing that he was “dumbfounded” the committee would consider what he called a “shortsighted” policy that relies on fossil fuels after opposing hydraulic fracturing measures previously.

He testified the natural gas will largely be derived from such “fracking” exploration methods. In addition, he raised the specter of the radioactive gas radon being released by such methods.

He said a coalition of environmental and labor groups has issued a letter of opposition to a package of bills dealing with compressed natural gas that is coming before committees in the near future.

The coalition, whose members include Food & Water Watch and CWA Local 1081, sent a letter dated Thursday to the committee requesting it not pass four bills that deal with various aspects of natural gas use.

The bills, none of which was before the committee Monday, include:

A1997/S435, which would provide tax credits for purchases of compressed natural gas vehicles;

A3406/S2229, which would provide rebates for natural gas fueling and charging stations;

A3416/S2193, which would exempt CNG and hybrid vehicles from sales tax;

And A2611, which would exempt colleges from sales tax for natural gas. The Sales and Use Tax Review Commission recommended earlier this year the bill not be passed.

The committee did have on the agenda for later today S2194, which requires the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to provide compressed natural gas fueling stations and charging stations at at least four rest areas on the New Jersey Turnpike and no fewer than four rest areas on the Garden State Parkway. 

“We are making decisions about the energy use for the next 50 or 100 years in this country,’’ Walsh said. “What sort of world do you want your children and grandchildren to live in.”

Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Smith said things have to be placed in a bigger picture.  He said natural gas generates less air pollution than other fossil fuels, and it makes the country less energy dependant than it has been.

He also disagreed with Walsh’s estimate of how much would come from “fracked’’ gas exploration.  He said compressed natural gas could be a transitional fuel to less carbon-based options when you do a “net-net balance.”

Compressed natural gas resolution advances