Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Proposal Calls for Natural Gas Hubs; Stations Would Be Partly Paid for by a Surplus in the Government Fund

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Proposal Calls for Natural Gas Hubs; Stations Would Be Partly Paid for by a Surplus in the Government Fund

Article excerpt

Byline: Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA Motorists who thought $2.19 per gallon was impossible now might be among the customers willing to patronize a proposed network of 10-15 filling stations for vehicles running on compressed natural gas.

Not only is CNG cheaper, but it's also better for the environment and comes from domestic sources.

The Public Service Commission is considering a $12 million proposal from Atlanta Gas Light Co. to tap a government fund as a way to cover part of the construction costs. Station owners would have to come up with at least 50 percent of the balance.

The state's commercial natural-gas customers pay into the Universal Service Fund as a way to help AGL finance expanding its pipelines into new neighborhoods. Because the recession slowed residential construction, AGL hasn't needed much of that money lately, leaving a one-time surplus.

That creates a unique opportunity that's too good to pass up, according to PSC Commissioner Doug Everett.

"Georgia has the opportunity to become the leading state in the Southeast by establishing a statewide CNG network," he said.

PSC colleagues Tim Echols and Chuck Eaton agree.

The commissioners don't want to prejudge the proposal before hearings later this spring, but they like the concept.

"I think it's a well-balanced plan," said Everett, who prodded AGL last fall to come up with a way to build more filling stations.

AGL isn't alone. It's racing Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a California company founded by oilman T. Boone Pickens. That company built a public fueling station at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and recently announced it and a partner will open three more around Atlanta.

Relying on bond investors, Clean Energy is pumping $40 million into the Georgia stations.

The PSC wants to see new stations that are available to the public so consumers will feel confidence about access to fuel where they need it. …

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