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4. Discussion

4.1 The NLEV Program

By September 2000 (model year 2001), the NLEV Program requires automobile manufacturers to ensure that their new cars and trucks, with less than 6,500 lbs. GVWR, meet the LEV standards (on average) in all U.S. states. Although not required in Texas until September 2000, many automakers began selling a wide variety of gasoline and diesel-powered LEVs prior to that date. These have been available at the same price as their conventional counterparts. For many models, automakers have been selling only LEVs.

Tables 1 and 2 list the growing number of LEV models that are currently available for purchase in the Texas market (see Tables 11-13 in Appendix B for more information on the emission standards for LEVs).

4.2 TIER II Vehicle Standards

In December 1999, The EPA announced new tailpipe emissions standards (Tier II standards) for all passenger vehicles less than 10,000 lbs. GVWR, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs), minivans, vans and pick-up trucks. This will be the first time that SUVs and other light-duty trucks--even the largest passenger vehicles--are subject to the same national pollution standards as cars. Simultaneously, EPA also announced lower standards for sulfur in gasoline, to help ensure the effectiveness of low emission-control technologies.

According to EPA, these new standards require passenger vehicles to be 77 to 95 percent cleaner than those on the road today and reduce the sulfur content of gasoline by up to 90 percent. EPA estimates that the new standards will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides from vehicles by about 74 percent by 2030.

4.3 Energy Policy Act (EPAct)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on February 28, 1995, proposed rules requiring the purchase of AFVs by state government fleets and alternative fuel providers as mandated by EPAct in 1992. The rule was finalized March 14, 1996. Certain Texas state fleets must comply with the AFV purchase requirements of both EPAct and Chapter 2158 of the TGC. Similarly, certain private and local government fleets could also have dual purchase requirements under EPAct and the TCF Program if the DOE decides to expand the EPAct requirements. This would mean that under EPAct, affected private and local government fleets could be required to purchase vehicles capable of operating on alternative fuels. Some of these fleets are already required to purchase LEV-certified vehicles under the TCF Program. To comply with both requirements, they would need to purchase a percentage of vehicles that are both LEV certified, and are capable of operating on an alternative fuel recognized under EPAct. For a comparison of the TCF, FCFF and EPAct programs see Appendix C.

In April 1998, DOE published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about possibly adding local government and private fleets to the EPAct requirements. During the comment period, support for alternative fuel use was strong, however, many questioned whether mandated purchase of AFVs by local government and private fleets was the best way to increase alternative fuel use. Consequently, in March 2000, DOE announced its plans to delay a Rulemaking to allow more time to receive additional public comment and to evaluate alternative approaches, including those that emphasize voluntary collaboration and incentives rather than mandatory regulation.

EPAct History

EPAct was enacted to stimulate the development of technologies that can shift national energy demand toward renewable or domestically produced energy sources. EPAct requires DOE to establish a program that promotes the replacement of petroleum-based motor fuels to the maximum extent possible. EPAct affects:

  • Fleets of 20 or more vehicles operated primarily in metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and consolidated metropolitan statistical areas (CMSAs) with 1980 populations of 250,000 or more that are operated by state governments; and

  • Alternative fuel providers which control 50 or more vehicles within the United States.

  • Vehicles that are centrally fueled or capable of being centrally fueled.

In Texas, the following MSAs and CMSAs are affected: Austin-San Marcos, Beaumont Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, DFW, EP, HG, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, and San Antonio. However, all Texas state fleets with more than 15 vehicles are already required by Section 2158.005 of the TGC to purchase AFVs.

Under EPAct, the following are considered alternative fuels: methanol, denatured ethanol and other alcohols; M85, E85, and other alcohols with gasoline or other fuels; natural gas; LPG; hydrogen; coal-derived liquid fuels; fuels (other than alcohol) derived from biological materials; and electricity (including electricity from solar energy). Chapter 2158 of the TGC as amended by SB 200 only recognizes these alternative fuels: electricity, natural gas, LPG, ethanol, E85, methanol and M85. Fleets currently affected by EPAct, beginning in 1996 (MY 1997), must acquire AFVs according to the following percentages:

  • State government:
    10 percent in MY 1997;
    15 percent in MY 1998;
    25 percent in MY 1999;
    50 percent in MY 2000; and
    75 percent in MY 2001 and thereafter.

  • Alternative fuel providers:
    30 percent in MY 1997;
    50 percent in MY 1998;
    70 percent in MY 1999; and
    90 percent in MY 2000 and thereafter.

Current Texas requirements are broader in scope than EPAct. As of model year 2001, (approximately September 2000), 75 percent of vehicle purchases by affected State fleets must be capable of operating on AFVs under EPAct. This is less stringent than Section 2158.004 of the TGC which requires Texas state fleets with more than 15 vehicles to purchase AFVs exclusively (a 100 percent purchase requirement). Furthermore, 50 percent of an affected State fleet must be capable of operating on an alternative fuel under Section 2158.005 of the TGC.

Alternative fuel providers are not covered by Chapter 2158 of the TGC so EPAct does represent an additional regulatory burden for these fleets. EPAct allows exemptions for both state governments and alternative fuel providers. Both state governments and alternative fuel providers may be granted exemptions for a lack of fuels or a lack of vehicles. In addition, state governments may obtain exemptions if the use of alternative fuels would pose a financial hardship. Similarly, under SB 200 the GSC is authorized to grant waivers to state vehicle fleets on the basis of excessive cost or the lack of fuel or equipment. Private and local government fleets are allowed these same exemptions and others under Section 382.136 of the HSC.

EPAct also establishes a fleet credit program for the acquisition of vehicles that are in excess of the number required to be purchased, or by the acquisition of vehicles prior to the required dates.

4.4 Clean Cities

Clean Cities is a voluntary Federal program designed to accelerate and expand the use of alternative fuels in communities throughout the country, and develop the necessary infrastructure for their operation. Sponsored by the DOE, Clean Cities encourages local governments and organizations to form public/private partnerships to develop markets for AFVs. Fleets impacted by EPAct can find information on funding, fueling and AFVs by participating in the Clean Cities Program.

Over the last six years, more than 75 communities have joined the national Clean Cities effort, enabling the deployment of more than 160,000 AFVs operating in both public and private fleets, and helping to build over 6,066 alternative refueling stations.

Six areas in Texas have established Clean Cities programs: Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas–Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston-Galveston and San Antonio. Many fleets in these cities have reported their AFV purchases to the Clean Cities’ coordinators. The following sections summarize the Clean Cities programs by area. Some data will include AFV purchases by Federal fleets because these fleets benefit Texas. These fleets, however, are not under the legislative authority of the Texas Legislature.

A. Austin

Austin became the first city in Texas to be designated as a U.S. DOE Clean Cities program. The Austin Clean Cities program was inaugurated in April of 1995. It is also the first city in Texas to achieve Redesignation (after five years of existence); this occurred in February 2000. Austin Clean Cities was "redesignated" as the expanded Central Texas Clean Cities (CTCC). With redesignation, CTCC intends to reach out to surrounding counties and get their participation as stakeholders and to expand programs to these areas.

The mission of the CTCC Coalition is to support and sustain an expanded market for alternative fuels and vehicles in Central Texas throughout 2005. Programs include adding new AFV fleets, increasing alternative fuel refueling infrastructure, and building awareness about the relationship between alternative fuels and clean air.

According to fleet reports received by the Clean Cities Coordinator, Austin-area fleets contain 1,448 AFVs. Of these vehicles, there are 425 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles, 27 liquefied natural gas (LNG), 995 LPG, and one electric vehicle.

B. Dallas–Fort Worth

In the early 1990s, the Regional Transportation Council made a commitment to encourage the use of alternative fuels. Funds from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program were provided to public sector fleets interested in transitioning to AFVs. Since its designation in 1995, DFW Clean Cities has grown from 45 stakeholders to more than one hundred active AFV users.

According to fleet reports received by the Clean Cities Coordinator, 766 AFVs were purchased between September 1, 1998 and September 1, 2000.

C. Houston-Galveston

The Greater Houston Regional Clean Cities program, organized and staffed by the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), was officially designated as a Clean City on September 4, 1997.

The H-GAC provides developmental assistance to this end through its Alternative Fuel Vehicle Program, funded through the Department of Transportation’s CMAQ funds. These funds are available to government entities and public/private partnerships purchasing or converting vehicles to be fueled by a recognized alternative fuel, or constructing and operating publicly owned alternative fuel infrastructure.

According to fleet reports received by the Clean Cities Coordinator, HG fleets have reported purchasing 617 AFVs in 1999. Of these vehicles, there were 98 CNG vehicles, 30 LNG, 39 LPG, and 450 Ethanol vehicles.

D. Paso del Norte (El Paso area)

According to fleet reports received by the Clean Cities Coordinator, EP fleets have reported purchasing 77 AFVs in 1999. Of these vehicles, there were 16 CNG vehicles, 17 LPG, 34 Ethanol and 10 electric vehicles.

E. San Antonio

The Alamo Area Clean Cities program was initiated in 1996 by the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG). In 1994, the AACOG staff completed an emission inventory which indicated that vehicle emissions comprised a large percentage of the region’s overall air pollution and ozone problems. After this inventory was completed, the AACOG decided to pursue a Clean Cities Designation as a way to increase the use of AFVs and reduce mobile source pollution in the region. The Alamo Area was formally designated a Clean City on November 10, 1999.

According to fleet reports received by the AACOG, San Antonio-area fleets have reported purchasing 795 AFVs in 1999. Of these vehicles, there were 458 CNG vehicles, six LNG, 79 LPG, 146 Ethanol, 100 Methanol, and six electric vehicles.

F. South Texas Clean Cities Coalition (Corpus Christi area)

Corpus Christi became the 61 st Clean City in the nation on March 31, 1998. Since that time, it has changed its name to the South Texas Clean Cities Coalition (STCCC). On August 31, 2000 it was incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Once Memoranda of Understanding have been finalized, the STCCC hopes to expand into the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Monterrey, Mexico.

According to fleet reports received by the Clean Cities Coordinator, STCCC fleets contain 718 AFVs. Of these vehicles, there are 106 CNG vehicles, 68 LNG, 536 LPG, and eight electric vehicles.

—— excerpted from Status Report: Low-Emission Vehicles
and Alternative Fuel Use
, SFR-049/00, December 2000.

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