Diesel retrofitting measure passes committee

TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee released several bills today, including ones dealing with retrofitting of diesel vehicles and a proposed constitutional amendment on preserved farmland and property assessments.

S2250: This bill would allow the owner of a diesel commercial bus or diesel solid waste vehicle, in lieu of completing the retrofitting to reduce pollution, to convert the vehicle to one that is powered by compressed natural gas or electricity instead of diesel fuel. The bill passed unanimously.

The bill also would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection to provide a grant from the Diesel Risk Mitigation Fund to any owner who wishes to convert the bus or vehicle to one that is powered by compressed natural gas or electricity instead of diesel fuel.  The grant would be used to reimburse the owner for the costs of the conversion.

The Department of Legislative Affairs told the committee that 10,000 retrofits have been done, and about 6,000 remain.

Thousands of school buses and garbage trucks are among the vehicles that has been retrofitted, removing more than 100 tons of particulate matter, the committee was informed.

Amendments to the bill include having the Department of Environmental Protection consult with Motor Vehicles, not the Department of Education, on school bus work; not providing grants to vehicles already retrofitted; and allowing conversions to liquefied petroleum gas.

Jeff Tittel of the N.J. Sierra Club supported the bill, pointing out the high level of pollutants in urban areas, saying natural gas is cleaner than even so-called “cleaner” diesel.

SCR38: This constitutional amendment would require the Legislature to enact laws providing for reduced property taxes for privately held land permanently preserved as open space.  It passed unanimously.

To qualify, the land must be at least five acres and able to be subdivided into more than one parcel and developed under existing zoning and other land use laws and regulations. 

In addition, the landowner must have donated all development rights on the land to an appropriate governmental or nonprofit entity.

The property tax value would be the value it has for conservation or recreation use or not more than 50 percent of the restricted value of the land after donation of the development rights, whichever is less.

Sponsor Sen. Jennifer Beck said this preservation method is timely, in light of the fact the hurricane rebuilding effort will make it difficult for the state to devote public monies toward such assessment-preservation goals.

S2194: This bill 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.  It was released unanimously.

They would have to be distributed in the northern, central, and southern portions of the state to provide maximum refueling and recharging services.