PUMPING ALTERNATIVE: Demonstrating the pumping of CNG is Tulsa Gas Technologies President Tom Sewell while Oklahoma House Speaker Chris Benge, center, and AT&T-Oklahoma President Bryan Gonterman observe.
Oklahoma House Speaker Chris Benge, other local lawmakers and AT&T’s Bryan Gonterman recently announced that AT&T-Oklahoma plans to roll out a fleet of at least 30 Compressed Natural Gas () vehicles this year in part because of recently approved tax incentives developed by Benge.
“Because of these tax incentives, as well as the high number of existing fueling locations in the state and our goal of more fuel efficiency, we’re excited to be one of the first companies to make a serious commitment to vehicles in Oklahoma,” said Gonterman, president, AT&T Oklahoma. “We should commend Speaker Benge for his vision and the co-authors of the bills for developing legislation that lessens our dependence on foreign oil.”
The Senate version of the legislation was authored by Sapulpa state Sen. Brian Bingman. Tulsa-area lawmakers who supported the alternative-fuel legislation were Sen. Tom Adelson, Sen. Bill Brown, Sen. Sean Burrage, Sen. Brian Crain, Rep. David Derby, Rep. Rex Duncan, Sen. Mary Easley, Rep. Tad Jones, Rep. Fred Jordan, Rep. Dan Kirby, Rep. Lucky Lamons, Rep. Mark McCullough, Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, Sen. Mike Mazzei, Sen. Dan Newberry, Rep. Ron Peters, Rep. Pam Peterson, Rep. Eric Proctor, Rep. Seneca Scott, Rep. Jabar Shumate, Rep. Dan Sullivan, Rep. Sue Tibbs, Rep. John Trebilcock and Rep. Weldon Watson.
“The bill obviously had bi-partisan support in both the Oklahoma state House and Senate,” said Don Walker, Arvest Bank and incoming president of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce. “These lawmakers worked together for the greater good of the entire Tulsa metropolitan area. I know my counterparts at other local chambers join me in thanking our legislators for passing a law that makes the Tulsa area a better place to work, live and raise a family.”
Benge said the AT&T announcement is the type of commitment from the business community he had hoped for when he developed the plan.
The announcement was made at the headquarters of Tulsa Gas Technologies, a local manufacturer of fueling equipment. The event was attended by Representatives Wright and Lammons, Sen. Bingman and a variety of civic and community officials.
Gonterman said the 30 -powered vans represent nearly 10 percent of AT&T’s van fleet in Oklahoma. He said Benge’s plan provided the right incentive to support AT&T bringing more of the new -powered vehicles to Oklahoma and to do so faster than other states.
Over the next 10 years, AT&T will replace many more of its vehicles with more fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles. Last March, AT&T announced a national 10-year plan to deploy more than 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles.
While continuing to promote Oklahoma’s oil-and-gas industry, House Bill 1949 passed this session uses free market incentives to secure the state’s national role in the alternative energy market. The legislation extends a significant tax credit to offset the cost of converting a vehicle to run on compressed natural gas or other alternative fuels plus a $2,500 tax credit for installing home-fueling stations.
House Bill 1952 also seeks to help further expand the number of vehicles in the state running on alternative fuels like . The legislation will also help expand the number of publicly available fueling stations across the state.
Walker said one key point that came out of the press conference was the tie between state legislation and business investment in Oklahoma.
Nationwide, AT&T plans to invest up to $565 million as part of its long-term, alternative-fuel-vehicle strategy. AT&T expects to spend an estimated $350 million to purchase about 8,000 Compressed Natural Gas () vehicles and approximately $215 million to begin replacing its passenger cars with alternative-fuel models. AT&T’s investment represents the largest U.S. corporate commitment to vehicles to date.
The Center for Automotive Research () in Ann Arbor, Mich., estimates that the new vehicles will save 49 million gallons of gasoline and reduce carbon emissions by 211,000 metric tons over the 10-year deployment period.