Legislature approves natural gas vehicle incentives

The Florida House passed HB 579 to promote the use of natural gas fuels in Florida. Eric Criss, chairman of the Florida Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (FNGVC), congratulated the legislature on its action: "Florida now leads the nation in our crucial drive toward energy independence. This is an important step forward in America's evolving national security policy and in protecting our environment. I commend Senator Wilton Simpson, Representative Lake Ray and their colleagues on both sides of the aisle for this important accomplishment."

On Tuesday, HB 579 passed the Florida Senate 39-0 and was immediately sent to the Florida House. That chamber took up the bill on Thursday, passing it 116-2. The legislation encourages commercial fleet owners to invest in new natural gas vehicles through grants administered by the Office of Energy at the Florida Department of Agriculture. The immense popularity of American natural gas among Floridians contributed to the bill's success.

In February, the coalition announced the results of a public opinion survey conducted by TelOpinion Research February 7 to 12, 2013. The survey found that 72 percent of Floridians supported a program to help convert commercial fleet vehicles from traditional fuels to American natural gas, decreasing U.S. reliance on imported oil, creating jobs and improving air quality. The survey also found that 96 percent of respondents believe it is important to promote energy independence in the United States; 93 percent believe it is important to create new, well paying jobs; and 95 percent believe it is important to protect Florida's environment.

In 2013, the Florida Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition published an updated study by Fishkind and Associates indicating that a natural gas vehicle incentive program could create over 10,000 new jobs, more than $300 million in wages and over $1 billion in economic impact. "Governor Rick Scott has a laser focus on jobs and we hope that he will sign this legislation as soon as possible, creating new employment opportunities for Floridians," said Criss.