Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rep. Cockroft - CNG Infrastructure Plan A Priority for Next Session

With Oklahoma’s legislative session rapidly approaching it’s time for legislators to compile all the issues we worked on over the summer and begin crafting legislation. We must have all our legislative ideas submitted to the House Clerk by December 13th, so these next couple weeks will be full of narrowing down issues each member wishes to look at. Every member is allowed to introduce an unlimited amount of bills, but is only guaranteed to have eight placed in a committee where they could be heard. The rest are placed in the Rules committee and can only be brought out on the Speaker’s request. With the busyness of this year there are many different issues I am looking at. Over the next couple of months I will be keeping you up to date on what I am working on and will be pushing this next legislative session.
    One issue that I will push deals with our State’s CNG capabilities and infrastructure. Anyone who has looked into converting or purchasing a CNG vehicle knows there are currently tremendous cost and infrastructure hurdles that face them. A simple conversion can cost around $9,000 and purchasing a new CNG vehicle can be around $35,000. Not cheap. Additionally, after the purchase is the challenge of where to fuel your vehicle. It’s not easy to find a CNG filling station in our state yet; one of the reasons why the technology is still so expensive.
    This bill was crafted with the help of Cleveland County Commissioner Rod Cleveland’s office and will have two major areas of focus. First, providing a better infrastructure for CNG filling stations across Oklahoma, and secondly, funding for updating the State and County vehicle fleets for CNG use saving millions of dollars in the process. To provide better access for the public, counties, and state alike each county would enter into a public-private partnership with a top competitive bidder CNG company to place a filling station on county property to be used by the public and county/state CNG fleets. That’s a potential of 231 additional CNG filling stations across the state when placing a filling station in each county district; many of which are in rural areas. This would be a win-win for everyone. The counties and the state could fill their vehicles where there currently is no ability to do so, and the public could do the same; providing tremendous profit for the CNG provider.
Currently there are a little over 2,400 county vehicles being used across the state; 5,000 if you count law enforcement. This is where the taxpayer savings come in. ODOT (Oklahoma Department of Transportation) conducted a study in 2012, converting 150 ODOT vehicles and tracking money spent over a 5 month period. At the end of that period, just based on fuel costs they saved $163,000 by using CNG. The average price of unleaded fuel is $2.22 more than that of CNG. Imagine the savings if we converted those 5,000 vehicles, plus all of ODOT’s vehicles to run on CNG! My bill will place a percentage of the gross production tax (an oil and gas tax) out of the general revenue and evenly back to all counties to update their light vehicle fleets over a ten year period or until the fleet is updated. This is not a new tax, but merely taking a consumption tax that is taken from oil and gas and placing it back where it belongs.
I am a firm believer in CNG and believe the more we can do to promote and build it up, the better it will be for our state. This idea has gained huge support from state and local leadership, both Democrats and Republicans, rural and urban areas, as well as large corporations such as Clean Energy, Halliburton, Loves, and On-Cue. I look forward to working on this issue over the next year.
 What are your thoughts? What would you like me to focus on in the coming session? I’m always a phone call or email away. Call my office at: 405-557-7349. Email my office at: Follow me on FaceBook: Representative Josh Cockroft, and on Twitter: @VoteCockroft27. It is an honor to serve you!