PUNXSUTAWNEY — Pennsylvania American Water (PAW) is riding the wave of the future with its CNG vehicles.
Local officials joined with Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Sam Smith and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection officials Friday at PAW's Punxsutawney office to mark the company’s launch of a compressed natural gas (CNG) pilot program for its vehicle fleet.
Friday, the company displayed four new CNG-powered Ford F-250 trucks at its kickoff event — a fleet that will be piloted in Punxsutawney and Coatesville.
“CNG provides PAW with an exciting alternative fuel option that will help us better control our operational expenses, reduce our carbon footprint and capitalize on the abundant supply of natural gas right here in the Commonwealth,” said Kathy L. Pape, president of Pennsylvania American Water.
Pape said when PAW started rolling out CNG vehicles in its 36 counties and 390 communities, it made sure there were natural gas fueling stations that would be available 24/7 to the PAW fleet.
"What came first? The chicken or the egg?," she asked. "What good are CNG vehicles with no filling stations. CNG vehicles with no fueling stations, have little value."
Pape also said that she was thankful for the foresight of Robert Beatty of "O" Ring and Associates, who opened the first fueling station in Punxsutawney, located on Route 436 behind the car wash.
Pape thanked Beatty for being a risk taker by putting in a fueling station.
"As many of you know, this is my hometown (Punxsy), and this PAW office is located just a few streets away from where I grew up. I'm happy to be here, but I'm also happy to be rolling out our CNG fleet right here in Punxsy."
In contrast to gasoline prices, which currently range around $3.50 per gallon, Pape said fueling with CNG costs approximately $2 per gallon.
Steve Tambini, vice president of operations for PAW, said the company is also sold on CNG’s environmental benefits.
“The new CNG vehicles operate on the same basic principle as traditionally fueled trucks, but they generate significantly less particulate matter,” said Tambini, adding that this means cleaner air and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which will benefit the environment and the communities PAW serves.
"I think everyone in this room realizes the benefits of natural gas, and especially Marcellus Shale drilling extraction has had throughout the Commonwealth, especially in the northwest," Pape said.
"I think all the time about independence from foreign oil," she said. "We think about a clean energy source and especially jobs."
She said the Commonwealth needs the jobs, and she thinks natural gas extraction has responsibly brought the state some of those jobs.
"Another reason Pennsylvania American Water is delighted to bring out CNG vehicles is because it reduces our fuel costs," she said. "We are concerned about our carbon footprint, and we know CNG will reduce our carbon footprint in the communities where we work and live across the Commonwealth."
Pape said PAW will continue to search for opportunities similar to CNG that benefit the company, environment, community and customers that it serves day-in-and-day-out, 24/7, 365 days per year.
"Think about our employees, the best in the world, who in the middle of the night on a night like tonight, will be called to go out and climb into a ditch with water in it," she said. "There they will be working to restore water service to a community while were are sleeping."
Rep. Sam Smith, from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania Speaker of the House, said It is very encouraging to see companies like Pennsylvania American Water begin to convert their fleets to CNG.
“This is exactly the trend we hope to see continuing across the state," he said.
More CNG vehicles on the road leads to a greater need for fueling stations, and that ultimately results in less dependence on foreign oil and more jobs in the energy sector here in Pennsylvania, he said.
"I congratulate Pennsylvania American Water for being a leader in this area," Smith said.
Pape said that PAW also announced it is applying for a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to add more CNG-powered vehicles to its fleet.
Tambini also said PAW will construct a company-owned fueling station in Scranton that will support up to 36 CNG vehicles in 2014.
Pennsylvania American Water, a subsidiary of American Water, is the largest water utility in the state, providing high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to approximately 2.2 million people.
Founded in 1886, American Water is the largest publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater utility company.
Other speakers who participated in the program were: Geoff Bristow, DEP's northwest regional office, the local administrator to the natural gas vehicle program; Deborah Pantzer, PAW Developmental specialist; and George Cradic, PAW production supervisor.
Local officials in attendance included Paul Corbin, chairman of the Jefferson County Commission; Jim McIntyre, commissioner and vice chair; and Jeff Pisarcik, commissioner; Larry Chenoga, Punxsutawney Borough Council president; Eric Story, Michele Lorenzo and Jaime Sherry Punxsy Borough Council members; and several township supervisors.
Mark Adams represented Sen. Joe Scarnati, president pro tempore of the Senate.
With headquarters in Voorhees, N.J., the company employs more than 7,000 dedicated professionals who provide drinking water, wastewater and other related services to an estimated 15 million people in more than 30 states, as well as parts of Canada.
More information can be found by visiting www.amwater.com .