The Pennsylvania House this week is considering a package of bills to encourage bus systems and businesses to switch their fleets to natural gas.
The “Marcellus Works” package of bills would provide tax breaks, loans and grants for municipal bus systems and private companies to buy natural-gas powered vehicles.
House Republican Whip Stan Saylor engineered the package.
“We want to make sure that we use Pennsylvania resources to benefit Pennsylvanians in multiple ways,” Saylor said. “From job creation, cleaning up the greenhouse gases, and also improve our economy.”
Saylor said the package would reduce greenhouse gases at a price tag of $306 million over several years.
The legislation also contains tax incentives to build or expand natural gas-refueling stations on Interstates 76, 95 and other highways.
Pennsylvania Sierra Club head Jeff Schmidt opposes the bills, calling them a subsidy for the natural gas industry.
“The natural gas industry is completely self-sustaining already, they don’t need taxpayer support in order to boost their profits,” Schmidt said.
Many expect most of the bills in the package to pass in the House by next week.
House Energy and Environment Committee Democratic chair Greg Vitali said getting enough votes in the Senate is another story.
“The problem is how do you pay for this, when we are cutting funding for education, when we can’t find money for our roads and bridges,” Vitali said, “do we really have this kind of money to ‘incent’ natural gas vehicles?
After lobbying from SEPTA, Saylor said lawmakers just nixed a part of the legislative package which would have required large transit systems to buy only natural gas buses by 2028.