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Posted: October 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

DTC to hold natural gas discussion

City of Covington, MGAG host workshop about fuel alternative

 The city of Covington and the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia will be hosting a panel on natural gas filling stations and running public vehicles on natural gas on Tuesday at DeKalb Technical College.

The city is exploring the possibility of building one or two natural gas filling stations for the city’s fleet of vehicles, which would have to be retrofitted to accept natural gas fuel.

The daylong session will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Newton Center campus of DeKalb Tech on Bob Williams Parkway. Interested government employees and members of the public are invited to attend.

City Manager Steve Horton said the city is interested in collaborating with the Newton County Board of Commissioners, the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority and the Newton County School System on building the filling stations.

"All of it is relative to capital costs," Horton said. "Ideally, what we would like is to diversify our fleet so we’re running off different things."

A move to natural gas by the city’s 300 pieces of machinery which operate on petroleum, including approximately 150 vehicles, would not only save the city from paying high prices for gasoline but also contribute to the nation’s efforts to reduce dependency on foreign oil said Horton.

"The hope is that the government is going to drill new natural gas wells," he said. "Even if costs were to go up through the law of economics [on the cost of natural gas], the petroleum out here is going to go down."

Horton said Covington is the first city in MGAG to actively pursue the possibility of building natural gas filling stations the last three months but that there are some 30 other MGAG member cities who have also expressed interest.

"It doesn’t take folks too long to figure out we’ve got to do something," he said, adding that just because the cost of gasoline has fallen in the last two weeks doesn’t mean it won’t abruptly increase again in the near future.

Nicole Graham, senior marketing analyst for MGAG, said the natural gas vehicle workshop will focus on filling station designs, how shared-ownership of the stations would be worked out between different governmental bodies and tax incentives and grants for the conversion of vehicles to natural gas.

"They’re not going to be focusing on residential vehicles," Graham said, adding that for the present time the emphasis would be on public vehicles.

Horton said the city might consider allowing private vehicles that can run on natural gas to buy fuel from the city at natural gas filling stations.

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