New board driven by push for natural gas vehicles in Utah
Published: July 31, 2013 01:31PM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:36PM
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Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo A state audit says that the Utah Transit Authority gave millions in sweetheart deals to developers, and also points out problems with the agency's long-term finances.

A new government panel tasked with promoting natural gas vehicles met for the first time Tuesday.

Dubbed the “Alternative Energy Interlocal Entity Board,” the nine-member panel largely discussed mechanics of its work and talked only briefly about the powerful potential to expand Utah’s natural gas fueling network, as well as the number of cars, trucks and buses that run on it.

“The reason we’re here is CNG [compressed natural gas] works,” said Brad Markus, a member of the new board and community and business development manager for Questar Gas Co. “And anyone who says to the board, ‘aw, it doesn’t,’ they’re wrong. It’s working.”

Lawmakers specified that the board would focus on natural gas when they directed its creation in SB275 during the 2013 Legislature.

But, before digging into specific suggestions, the group had a lengthy discussion Tuesday about housekeeping, including who will keep the records, who will write the reports and how to ensure statewide buy-in for the programs even though Utah’s natural gas network is strongest in its urban centers.

“When we’re putting together the vision, the vision has to be statewide,” said Charlie Luke, a Salt Lake City Council member who was appointed chairman of the new board, arguing that an inclusive approach is important to maintain ongoing attention from the Legislature.

Luke is one of four on the board appointed by legislative leaders. The others are Rep. Greg Hughes, a Draper Republican and chairman of the Utah Transit Authority; Sen. Stuart Adams, the Layton Republican who sponsored SB275; and Russ Wall, who left his job as Taylorsville mayor last year to become Salt Lake County Public Works director.

Gov. Gary Herbert named four to the panel, including his energy adviser, Cody Stewart; Tracy Cowdell of the Canyons School District; Larry Hansen of DATS Trucking/Overland Petroleum; and Markus, who also serves on the Economic Development Corp. of Utah board.

Chris Bleak, a UTA board member, is also a member of the interlocal board, who was appointed by UTA under the law.

The panel lamented a fast-approaching deadline to develop a report to the Legislature without dedicated staff. The report is due by the end of September, and the panel has yet to zero in on what to say.

fahys@sltrib.com

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