Smith, Greenstein: Major push for clean-car bills this fall

TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee next week will consider a series of bills dealing with different aspects of “clean” cars.

The bills – most of which will be discussed only, not voted on – will touch on various aspects of the issue: charging stations, business tax credits, alternative-fueled vehicles, hybrid electric cars, and sales tax exemptions.

Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), Piscataway, said, “We are going to make a major effort on clean cars in this fall period of time. What we want to do is get them on the table and see which ones we think are meritorious.”

Smith has a timetable: Discuss these bills next week, then two meetings later consolidate or whittle them down to the ones having the most merit, then at a later meeting vote on the ones that seem best.

“We hope by November to have a really good package together for clean cars that will stimulate the economy tremendously,’’ Smith said.

This technology, he said, “has tremendous promise for the citizens of New Jersey, especially natural gas vehicles, which can cut the cost of transportation literally in half. You can get as many miles from natural gas for half the price of gasoline.”

But he said he wants to go about this process in an orderly, reasoned way, thus next week’s first step of holding a discussion-only meeting.

Among the bills that are on the agenda:

S2198: A Smith-sponsored bill that would establish a clean car commission. This one would be up for a vote.

S340: A bill sponsored by Sens. Linda Greenstein, (D-14), Plainsboro, and James Beach, (D-6), Cherry Hill, that would provide a corporate business tax credit for purchasing hybrid or electric cars.

S345: A Greenstein bill offering similar tax credits for compressed natural gas vehicles.

S346: Again, a Greenstein bill, this one offering the tax breaks on fuel cell vehicles.

S371: This Beach-sponsored legislation would authorize state and local governments to enter into group purchasing agreements for alternative-fuel cars.

S400: This proposal by Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7), Edgewater Park, would have the Board of Public Utilities set up a pilot program to allow free parking for alternative-fuel vehicles.

S595: Sens. Jennifer Beck, (R-11), Red Bank, and Bob Gordon, (D-38), Fair Lawn, sponsored this bill offering a two-year sales tax exemption for fuel-efficient vehicles.

S955: This Allen bill would exempt electric vehicle charging stations from property taxes.

S980: A Greenstein bill that would encourage development of electric vehicle charging stations in transportation projects.

S983: A similar bill by Greenstein that would encourage a pilot program for level three charging stations. These would be systems providing 480-volt alternate current in a three-phase circuit at three different locations along the N.J. Turnpike.

S984: Greenstein sponsored this proposal to set up a pilot program for a public/private alternative fueling station.

Greenstein, who sponsored many of the bills, said she wanted to get the discussion started to help New Jersey reduce carbon emissions and its reliance on fossil fuels.

“We have to take charge and move in a new direction,’’ she said. Clean-car efforts are increasingly in use out West, she explained, and unlike opposition years ago – why purchase a hybrid if there are no charging stations? – the vehicles and the means to power them are starting to become more common.

“One of the biggest issues is who is going to pay for what, can it pay for itself,” Greenstein said. “We’ll have many hearings on it. The goal is to sort it all out.”

“Businesses get very nervous about new things,” she said. “Any time we’ve forged head and been creative, eventually it works out well.”

Smith, Greenstein: Major push for clean-car bills this fall