Fueling a Change

The town of Smithtown, N.Y.'S recent bid process for residential haulers contained an atypical caveat: only companies willing to use compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles need apply. The result was a larger-than-usual number of bids and four new haulers to service the town's 35,000 households.

Beginning Jan. 1, haulers in Smithtown will no longer be filling their vehicles with diesel. Concerned with the rising cost of diesel fuel, town leaders began exploring the viability of alternative fuels when putting together its bidding process for a new hauling contract. The town subsequently secured a seven-year, fixed-price contract with Seal Beach, Calif.-based Clean Energy for compressed natural gas and stipulated that haulers use the fuel.

Russell K. Barnett, environmental protection director for the town, says that potential haulers were receptive to the idea for a number of reasons. Some were attracted by the price stability and the “even playing field” that it created among all sizes of companies, while others saw an opportunity to join what could be a growing trend in the region. (Most natural gas fleets are on the West Coast.)

During December, 22 CNG-fueled vehicles will arrive in Smithtown, which will also house the largest public access CNG fueling station on the East Coast.

Under the new contracts, the collection price per home will increase from $96 to $144. “The point is that we've stabilized the price for seven years, and we think that's a major advantage,” Barnett says. “There are also tremendous environmental benefits. We're going to reduce emission of nitrous oxides by 265 tons and fine particulates by 15 tons in residential areas.”

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