Utah Law Would Make Natural Gas Conversions $8,000 Cheaper

Phill—Honda's home CNG refueling station

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If a bill currently working its way through the Utah legislature becomes law, the installation cost of compressed natural gas (CNG) conversion retrofit kits in gas-powered vehicles would drop by about 57% in the state—from a current average of $14,000 to a much more reasonable $6,000.

CNG powered cars hold a ton of promise as an alternative to gas and diesel due to their extremely low emissions, low wear and tear on engines, low cost of fuel, and the abundant availability of natural gas from domestic sources.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the legislation came about as a direct result of frustration by Utah residents and lawmakers with the perceived burdensome regulations imposed on CNG conversion kits by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to CNG conversion advocates, the current EPA rules surrounding the kits are too stringent, leading to inflated prices and a dearth of kits for a tiny selection of vehicle models.

To get around the EPA rules, the proposed state law would create a process whereby a CNG conversion kit would not have to be certified by EPA to be considered a legal conversion. Instead the kit would simply have to be approved and installed by a Utah Division of Air Quality certified technician and checked for safety every 3 years or 36,000 miles. According to the bill’s sponsors, the law would make much less expensive kits available to a larger selection of cars. And, get this… apparently the EPA is okay with this approach!

As the bill’s sponsor, Republican State Representative Jack Draxler said that the main goal is to get as many clean burning CNG vehicles on the road as possible in a short time. “This winter we’ve had red-air days going into red-air weeks and … almost red-air months,” Mr. Draxler said in the Salt Lake Tribune article. “We will never get enough vehicles on the road running on compressed natural gas if we wait for the EPA.”

I’m generally resistant to taking pot shots at big federal agencies for a calculated political gain. I mean it’s certainly easy enough to bash an agency like the EPA for doing something wrong, but really the core problem lies with our ridiculously out-of-whack political process—part of which is due to our politicians making the very institutions we depend on look like idiots even though those institutions are simply implementing the laws the politicians created.

However, in this case it seems the EPA needs to re-evaluate their CNG kit policies… especially if a state can figure out how to get around the regulations and, in the end, the EPA is fine with that loophole. Just make the loophole the actual policy and problem solved. If this is a problem nationwide, it seems that Utah’s solution could be a template for other states looking for ways to reduce the emissions of cars already on the roads.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune | Image Credit: Nick Chambers

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.