County seeks CNG funding

WARREN – Trumbull County’s commissioners and engineer will ask for $750,000 from Ohio’s capital budget to build a compressed natural gas fueling station, and to show just how serious they are, they’re also pledging to spend $500,000 over the next two years to begin converting their vehicle fleets to run on the alternative fuel.

Commissioners simultaneously on Tuesday gave Engineer Randy Smith the OK to apply for the state dollars and committed the local funding – $125,000 each annually over the next two years – that also would be used on other expenses related to the proposed fuel station or matching money for grants and loans that promote the use of compressed natural gas.

”All that is doing is letting the governor (Republican John Kasich) know Trumbull County is committed to looking at this particular natural resource,” Smith said. ”Not only are we saying that we believe in it, but we are backing that up by committing dollars.”

The local funding is contingent on the county receiving the funding from the state’s capital budget in 2014. The application is due by Friday.

”We’ve had different meetings and gone to a presentation on conversion units, that was probably six months ago, so we have been looking at it,” said commissioner Paul Heltzel.

Also, commissioners pledged their support to Smith’s effort to secure $100,000 through Ohio’s Local Government Innovation Fund to do what he called ”larger scale” study in the county of compressed natural gas use, including what infrastructure exists and what’s needed, potential locations for a fueling station and cost savings to communities which want in.

So far, Smith said, about 20 governments and businesses in Trumbull County have signed on as partners. This round of funding recipients have not yet been announced.

And this effort, if it’s successful, could get a boost with legislation in the Ohio House that would offer tax incentives for purchasing a vehicle that runs on CNG or retrofitting an existing care or truck engine to run on CNG.

The legislation, sponsored by Democrat state Rep. Sean O’Brien of Brookfield and Dave Hall, a Republican from Millersburgh in Holmes County, has so far gotten bipartisan support. Sixty legislators have signed on and its being backed by House leaders in both parties.