By Jon A. Brake
It has been costly. It has been very costly but the City of Manhattan
is about to pay off an Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) Fine. Of course the City did not live up to the terms of the contract so it will cost a little
more. And, we have a fleet of white elephants to drive for eight to ten years.
In 1998 the City was about to be fined by EPA for an over application
of biosolids from the wastewater treatment
plant. EPA wanted to fine the City $137,500 for the error but the City Commission approved a contract which
required the City to join the Clean Cities Program and a combination of a Compressed Natural Gas station and
By agreeing to the contract EPA reduced the fine by $72,500. The contract called for:
1. Establish a public-access compressed natural gas fueling station.
2. Add 10 CNG vehicles to its fleet by July 1, 1999.
3. Add 10 CNG vehicles to its fleet by July 1, 2000.
4. Add 10 CNG vehicles to its fleet by July 1, 2001.
The Compressed Natural Gas station at Juliette and Fort Riley Blvd cost
$261,073.94. The City received a
$10,000 grant from Kansas Gas Service and a $30,000 grant from the Ford Motor Company. The grants lowered
the cost to $221,073.94.
The City put in the station and ordered the first round of 10 cars and
trucks which run on both gas and
Compressed Natural Gas. Ford did not have some models with Compressed Natural Gas so the City had to
purchase the top of the line vehicles. Yes, they did cost a little more.
The second year, 2000 is when problems started for the City. Ford could
not deliver all 10 vehicles. In a letter to
the City Ford Motor Company said that "the supplier of the fuel fill valve closed for business during 2000 and
Ramp up time needed by the new supplier" will delay production.
The City again ordered 10 vehicles in 2001 knowing that they would not
be delivered. They were still hoping that
by ordering the vehicles they would be in compliance with the EPA contract. No such luck.
The City asked EPA last year if they could replace the Compressed Natural
Gas vehicles with electric but EPA
Not only no, but EPA has fined the City $12,000 for the year 2000 and
$12,000 for 2001. The penalties will be
paid from the savings of the purchase of gasoline vehicles rather than CNG vehicles, a savings of $46,661.00.
How will the City pay the fine? From the savings. What savings? Well,
Tuesday night the City Commission
approved the purchase of seven 2001 model vehicles using only regular gasoline. The cost of seven Bi-Fuel
vehicles in February 2001 was $148,318.00 and the cost now with regular gas will be $46,661.00 less or $101,657.
What the staff did not tell the Commission Tuesday night was that in
February the City purchased 14 vehicles at
a total cost of $425,688. This has been a very costly program. "Clean City" must have something to do with the
And the strange part - here is what the staff tells the Commission about the program:
"City Administration still supports the use and acquisition of compressed
natural gas vehicles. The CNG vehicles
generally will have a lower life cycle cost over a 10-year period. However, at this specific time, this part supply
problem creates significant difficulty for City operations in maintaining vehicles which are at least ten years old.
City Administration would favor continued budgetary allocations of alternative
fuel vehicles in the budget process
for future years. The City has made an important investment in the CNG fueling infrastructure and it provides
excellent clean fuel source options, particularly when gasoline prices are high."
Do we need "Clean Cities" or do we need to clean house?