SALEM - Two area state representatives, Nick Barborak, D-Lisbon, and Sean O'Brien, D-Hubbard, are hosting an information seminar along with industry officials on the benefits of converting vehicles to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
The seminar will provide information on converting vehicles to CNG and will be held at the Yankee Lake Ballroom on state Route 7 in Brookfield from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Thursday. Lunch will be served.
O'Brien and Barborak are sponsoring House Bill 336 which provides tax incentives for gas-powered vehicle conversions and new purchases of CNG powered vehicles.
The tri-county area is in the middle of the natural gas-rich Marcellus and Utica Shale plays.
The bill was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives last month with the belief that it's a positive step toward utilizing domestic energy and reducing dependence on foreign oil.
Pennsylvania state Rep.Mark Longietti and Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith are among the guests.
Barborak said the seminar, called a CNG Lunch and Learn Event, is open to the public but encouraged people wanting to attend to call the Youngstown/ Warren Regional Chamber at 330-744-2131 ext. 32 or email at Amanda@regionalchamber.com, first.
The bill, which carries a $16 million appropriation, creates three levels of incentives including grants for public (non-profit) users, tax incentives for private and commercial users and a $500 sales tax credit for electric-powered cars, like the Chevrolet Volt.
The tax credit is the lesser amount of either 50 percent of the purchase price of a conversion or, based on vehicle weight ratings, $5,000 for vehicles weighing 8,500 lbs. or less; $10,000 for vehicles between 8,500 and 10,000 lbs. and $25,000 for vehicles weighing more than 10,000 lbs.
Again, it is either 50 percent of the conversion cost or the amounts listed, whichever is less.
"It creates a tax incentive in those amounts," Barborak said, adding the amount for private conversions is significant.
One provision allows the director of the state EPA to award grant money to public entities which can include school districts and public transportation providers.
It includes incentives for building the infrastructure, which Barborak compared to a chicken or egg scenario.
"Ultimately we hope to create incentives so people invest in infrastructure," he said, adding that by promoting demand it will inspire markets.
"There are so many benefits from CNG, we should be trying to go in that direction.
"The cost is about half of a gallon of gas and the fuel burns cleaner, with significantly less wear and tear than with gas and diesel engines ... it's environmentally cleaner and lessens our dependence on foreign oil.
"So there are a lot of reasons."
Acknowledging the limits of the program, Barborak sees success leading to expansion.
"It's a better form of fuel," he said, "and this is a good start ... savings to people ultimately ... and can lead to job creation and a lot beyond that.
"The challenge will be to find ways to maximize our resources and derive as many benefits for our region as we possibly can," said Barborak.
The event is presented by the Ohio Energy Resource Alliance, Clean Fuels Ohio, General Motors, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Topic for discussion include a Utica Shale update, fueling infrastructure development, advanced fuel vehicle evaluation, natural gas vehicle conversions, Ohio success stories, a vehicle showcase and closing comments.