Q&A with Brad Swartout
State regulation of CNG industry should be helpful to businesses
Q: Signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, House Bill 3297 changes the regulatory oversight for the compressed natural gas industry and more. What are the specifics?
A: The biggest change in the bill is that the Oklahoma Department of Labor will take over as the sole regulatory entity of the CNG industry in Oklahoma. The Corporation Commission, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and the Labor Department previously shared those duties. The bill also reduces the state’s tax credit for a CNG conversion from 50 percent to 45 percent, and authorizes the Oklahoma Tax Commission to transfer the revenues from that reduction to cover the costs of the additional administrative duties at the labor department.
Q: Was this the legislation the industry was seeking?
A: Champion CNG didn’t request this bill, but we certainly are in favor of safety and compliance regulation for our industry. We think this will help protect consumers from “fly-by-night” companies doing questionable conversions in home garages which, in turn, protects the integrity of our industry. Regulatory laws are about keeping the industry safe by making sure qualified businesses are using tanks and parts certified by the Environmental Protection Agency. We support the creation of a centralized regulatory agency.
Q: How do you expect this to affect the industry?
A: The CNG industry as a whole will benefit because the new law will help weed out the bad actors. We see this is a positive move by the state to put more resources into the regulatory services of our industry. CNG is comparatively better for the environment than traditional fuel, and the costs are much lower. Having a central regulatory agency in place should only help CNG continue to grow as one of the most popular alternative energy industries in the nation.
Q: How will the new law affect consumers?
A: A centralized regulatory authority will help give consumers confidence in the companies they use when converting their vehicle or fleet to CNG. It’s unfortunate that the state tax credit will drop from 50 to 45 percent, but this is a small enough change that it shouldn’t adversely impact the number of conversions. Plus, there are still other incentives available, such as the federal tax credit and the rebate offered by Oklahoma Natural Gas.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER