This week, Summit County has introduced its first vehicle to be run solely on compressed natural gas, or CNG. The vehicle, a Honda Civic, will be used by the Health Department for its Early Intervention program, according to Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Yoder.

Switching to CNG vehicles is a new priority for the county, and it is part of a broader 'Sustainability Plan' to reduce carbon emissions by 13 percent by the end of Dec. 2013.

Yoder said the county has a fleet review committee that looks at each department's vehicle needs. The committee analyzes new vehicle purchases based on two criteria: (1) that the vehicle reduces emissions and is CNG if possible and (2) that the vehicle is the right one specific to the use it is for. For the Health Department, for instance, Yoder said the county did not need a pick-up truck; thus, the Honda Civic was both high-mileage and suited for its use.

"We have been down-sizing, oftentimes, pick-up trucks to SUVs, looking at what's the better mileage rate," Yoder said. "If they have the same mileage rate, we look at which has lower emissions."

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, approvals were granted for the county to issue a building permit to David and Allen Bell to build a public CNG refueling station in Silver Creek, according to a release by Summit County. The CNG station, to be located at the Sinclair at the intersection of Interstate 80 and US 40, will be in partnership with CNG America.

Providing an additional CNG refueling station will be crucial for not only Summit County vehicles but for residents as well, Yoder said. The only CNG refueling station currently is located at the Top Stop on State Road 224 in Park City. For vehicles that travel east-west, Yoder said, there are not many refueling options.

"The CNG infrastructure going north-south on I-15 is quite robust," Yoder said. "If you're trying to go east-west or if you just live in Summit County, the only place to fuel is in Park City. For us out here in Coalville, to drive into Park City to fuel does not make any sense."

To make it more efficient for CNG vehicles on the East Side to refuel, the county recently purchased a Fuelmaker CNG refueling appliance that will be installed at the library in Coalville. Designed primarily for residential use, it hooks into a residential gas line and compresses the gas to 3,600 pounds per square inch, which is what is required for CNG vehicles.

"It delivers the equivalent of one gasoline gallon per hour. You have to plug in the vehicle overnight to fill the tank," Yoder said. "It has two hoses, so if you have two vehicles you get half delivery to each vehicle."

CNG vehicles have both lower emissions than conventional vehicles and cost significantly less to fuel at roughly $2/gallon. The vehicles cost more, so not every vehicle will be a good choice for CNG, Yoder said. The more miles that are put on, however, the sooner the incremental cost is paid off.

Republic Services/Allied Waste currently operates seven 50-gallon CNG trash and recycling haulers in Summit County. They often refuel at the Top Stop in Park City, Yoder said, but the station was never meant to fuel seven haulers daily. Oftentimes, the haulers have to refuel in Salt Lake, she said.

"Having two stations in the county is going to augment and make more CNG more available so more people can switch to CNG," Yoder said.

The county also has a Ford F-350 that is used by the Public Works Department that will be converted to CNG after price estimates are completed. There are also three Ford F-150s that the county has ordered to come in next year that will be bi-fuel (CNG and gasoline), making a total of five CNG vehicles by next summer.

A request for proposals for a firm to design and install a CNG refueling station at the Public Works facility in Coalville has also been sent out by the county. Yoder is optimistic about the role of CNG in the county's future.

"We're interested in it from an emissions reduction standpoint and economically," Yoder said. "[These stations] give us a little place to start while the public infrastructure is being developed."