LAKEWOOD – Effective June 5, 2013, Pierce Transit received Environmental Protection Agency approval for fueling its bus fleet with Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). The EPA approval means that about 143 of Pierce Transit’s 155 buses are now running on RNG made from the biogases of the Cedar Hills Landfill in nearby King County.
According to Western Washington Clean Cities Coalition, Pierce Transit is believed to be the first transit agency in the nation to adopt environment-friendly RNG fuel for public transportation purposes. “Renewable natural gas is among the most climate-friendly fuels on the market today,” said Scott DeWees, Project Manager. “By using this locally-produced, waste-derived fuel, Pierce Transit will reduce the carbon emissions of its fleet by 80 percent – while also investing in our regional economy. We applaud their leadership and innovation.”
Innovative and sustainable fueling practices are not new at Pierce Transit. Until 2010, 100% of Pierce Transit’s buses were fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG). That number dropped to about 90% when the Agency began purchasing diesel-fueled hybrid electrics. A recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and State of Good Repair grant from the Federal Transit Administration funded the purchase of 15 additional Gillig diesel-fueled hybrid electric buses in April, 2013.
The Agency first made the commitment to move its bus fleet from diesel fuel to natural gas in 1986 when then Director of Maintenance Ron Shipley led the way for Pierce Transit’s groundbreaking adoption of CNG. In 1998, The U.S. Department of Energy detailed the history of Pierce Transit’s CNG story in a case study that can be found at the Alternative Fuels Data Center website at the following link: www.afdc.energy.gov/
Pierce Transit’s recent move from CNG to RNG was supported by Cost Management Services, Inc. (CMS), the Agency’s natural gas marketer since 2000. The Mercer Island-based company arranges the purchases and delivery of Pierce Transit’s natural gas, including its supply of biogas from the Cedar Hills Landfill.
As diesel prices per gallon fluctuate wildly, the rate per therm for natural gas has been relatively stable for Pierce Transit. The Agency spends about $.70 per gallon equivalent on average for RNG, which is the same rate for CNG. The current contract with CMS commits the Agency to using 5,000 therms of RNG per day, however, Senior Manager of Maintenance Bill Spies reports that Pierce Transit is currently using about 6,000 therms per day and is likely to use more as service hours increase.
Even prior to the move to RNG, the Agency saved about $2.4 million in its 2013 budget by purchasing CNG fuel, as compared to an equivalent amount of diesel. The Agency also earned $775,000 in alternative fuel tax credits, and is already starting to receive modest rebates for its recent move to RNG.
“While the financial benefits of using natural gas for fuel are significant, and the rebates for RNG are an added bonus, the move from CNG to RNG is just the natural next step for Pierce Transit,” says CEO Lynne Griffith. “It is just one more way that Pierce Transit demonstrates its commitment to the environment and continues its long history of pioneering sustainable, environment-friendly operations.”
For more information about Western Washington Clean Cities Coalition and renewable natural gas, visit www.wwcleancities.org; or visit Cost Management Services at www.cmsnaturalgas.com. For more information about Pierce Transit, please visit our website atwww.piercetransit.org.