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Lebanon Transit’s compressed natural gas station (CNG) will see a grand opening on January 22, so we visited Lebanon Transit’s 200 Willow Street headquarters today to get an advance look at what the facility entails.
The station was built as part of a $84.5 million public-private partnership between the state and Trillium CNG that was intended to get 29 of these stations installed at locations across the commonwealth faster than a purely public initiative could.
Trillium is owned by Love’s, which also operates its own location in Jonestown – only this Love’s pump, you can’t access unless you happen to work for another governmental agency that has partnered with Lebanon Transit.
The CNG station has been installed on the eastern side of the facility.
Lebanon Transit has not yet selected a long-term vendor to service the CNG station, with the bidding process for a “fixed price” contract still underway. The transit authority also has similar contracts for diesel and gas, saving money and gaining predictability on what can otherwise be highly variable costs.
The CNG fleet is cleaner and cheaper to operate than comparable diesel buses, and there’s no other change to the driving or passenger experience.
These buses are already in operation and if you use the system, you have probably seen or ridden one already. Who wins? We all do.
No, we don’t all win. In fact, we all lose in the long run. CNG may burn cleaner in the buses than diesel fuel, but natural gas is not at all clean when you follow the extraction process from beginning to end. Methane that leaks from well pads, pipelines, and every other part of the process contribute greatly to climate change. Plus, consider that the development of the average PA natural gas well requires several million gallons of water, several million tons of frac sand (mined in other states and transported here), thousands of gallons of chemicals, and usually hundreds of truck trips to haul all those resources to the well pad. Add in the energy-intensive drilling and fracking process, plus the removal of tons of drill cuttings to land fills and thousands of gallons of fracking wastewater, then ponder how clean CNG actually is. (And we haven’t even mentioned the pipelines and compressor stations needed to move that gas once it’s produced, plus the CNG facility.)
What’s really unfortunate is that I believe there is a 20-year agreement for this facility, which locks Lebanon into natural gas for two decades. A much better and more far-sighted choice would have been to invest in electric buses that eventually would run on truly clean renewable energy, which is becoming more economically feasible every year and is what we should be doing.
I do not fault Lebanon Transit for taking this opportunity, but I am sad that they chose to take this wrong path that our state is promoting under the guise of jobs and economic gain. The citizens of PA are already paying the cost of this industry in health impacts, property values, and climate change impacts and we can only expect more to follow unless we leave this gas in the ground, where it belongs.
Thank you for this comment. I wasn’t considering the fracking and pipeline aspects of CNG use when I wrote that sentence, and I agree that they are cause for concern. For instance, the Mariner East 1 pipeline is nearly 90 years old. Personally I think it’s an energy source worth pursuing as long as we can get the proper regulatory and enforcement structures in place, but I understand your point of view, too. Thank you for writing.