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Promoting potential of natural gas vehicles Waste Management showcases its site

Waste Management on Tuesday showcased its Clean N' Green compressed natural gas station on Ransier Drive in West Seneca, hoping to draw more attention to a different fuel source for vehicles.

The advocacy group CNG for Upstate NY used the occasion to promote the cost savings and environmental and economic impact associated with compressed natural gas. Local vendors supporting the industry displayed products, and CNG vehicle makers and converters displayed vehicles.

Waste Management opened the CNG facility last fall. There are public access dispensers, and the company uses the site to refuel trucks in its own fleet.

While the region is home to a number of CNG fueling stations, nearly all of them are off-limits to the public. The only stations available to the public in Erie and Niagara counties are the Clean N' Green operation and two National Fuel sites, at 365 Mineral Springs Road, West Seneca, and at 6250 Packard Road , Niagara Falls.

National Fuel presently has no plans for additional public CNG fueling stations in the region, said Karen Merkel, a National Fuel spokeswoman. "It's something we're always evaluating."

Craig Jackson, a committee member with CNG for Upstate, said the group wants to educate potential users about natural gas-powered vehicles and to encourage more fueling stations to be opened.

The region probably needs an additional five to 10 stations to accommodate fleets of vehicles and to make the fuel an accessible alternative to everyday consumers driving natural gas-powered vehicles, Jackson said.

Jackson, the business development manager for Cobey Inc., estimated about half of the attendees at Tuesday's event were small-fleet owners or municipalities interested in converting to natural gas.

"We're being very well received," he said.

Natural gas dispensed at stations in Buffalo Niagara is rising. From last November through the end of April, the volume at both the public and private stations in the area has increased eight to nine times, Merkel said. "People are definitely interested and are using it."

Earlier this year, the State Public Service Commission approved a National Fuel partnership for a natural gas vehicles pilot program. The $3.5 million program provides incentives to help cover the cost of a new refueling station or for the purchase of natural gas-powered vehicles. The financial assistance would be recovered through future customer sales.