Planning agency to aid Philly-area groups with change to natural gas vehicles

    The planning agency for the Philadelphia metropolitan region has new money to help local groups with the transition to natural gas vehicles.

    When a city decides to buy school buses or trash trucks that run on natural gas, there’s a lot to consider beyond the sticker price, says Robert Graff, manager of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Office of Energy and Climate Change.

    The commission will help local officials knock down administrative barriers and cut through red tape.

    That includes “changing the procurement process,” he says.

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    “If you’re going to be installing a natural gas-fueling station, you need a local code inspector who understands what they need to look at,” Graff said. “You need local responders in that community that are familiar with … if a natural gas vehicle gets into an accident how to respond.”

    Graff said natural gas-fueled cars and trucks often cost more than traditional diesel-burning vehicles. His team will help local groups in the nine-county Philadelphia region analyze the full cost of vehicle purchases, beyond the initial investment.

    The Obama administration awarded the commission about $319,000 for two years of planning and technical assistance.

    The commission has a similar grant to encourage electric-vehicle purchases.

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