By Joel Hall
Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, and State Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) were among many dignitaries who welcomed the opening of a new Clean Energy compressed natural gas (CNG) facility in College Park.
The facility, which had its official ribbon cutting on Wednesday, will serve as both the first Clean Energy filling station in Georgia and the largest fleet access CNG facility in the state.
About 100 people gathered for the ribbon cutting at 4555 Edison Drive in College Park, less than a mile from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Despite cold gusts of wind and constant, deafening interruptions from jets leaving the world's busiest airport, national, state and county officials praised the new fueling station, which has the ability to dispense 900 gallons of CNG per hour, 24 hours a day.
Jack Longino, College Park mayor, said the new facility may open a wave of partnerships among Clean Energy, College Park, and the various ground transportation and shuttle services which service the airport.
"I think it just shows that College Park is very interested in moving forward with green facilities," said Longino. "Coming from the automotive repair industry, there are virtually zero emissions that come from natural gas.
"The airport is going to push that all the vehicles at the airport are compressed natural gas," Longino continued. "It's a new movement, and I think College Park is on the cutting edge of it."
In another kind gesture, Kenneth Lapierre, deputy director of the EPA Air, Pesticides, and Toxins Management Division, gave a $117,437 check to the city of College Park to replace its four-truck fleet of diesel trash trucks with four new, clean-burning CNG trucks. Lapierre said the facility would help cut diesel emissions around the airport and "advertise" CNG to other county and city governments around the state.
"With diesel emissions, there is fine particulate matter and studies have shown it can be harmful to humans," said Lapierre. "The more trucks that use compressed natural gas, the more we will continue to see the benefits."
Winston Cooper, manager of ground transportation at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, said the facility is "a natural fit" for the airport. He said the airport is in the process of providing incentives to airport-related companies willing to convert their vehicle fleets to use CNG.
"We want to work with all the businesses at the airport to provide a cleaner and more environmentally friendly environment," said Cooper. "We couldn't have a better opportunity in our own backyard."
Eldrin Bell, Clayton County Board of Commissioners chairman, who delivered the program's invocation, said the county supports Clean Energy and is seeking a partnership, in which C-TRAN buses can do their refueling in College Park.
"We're looking at all our options to fund the services we provide to our citizens at the lowest cost possible," said Bell.
"It's either make an agreement with MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) downtown, or make an agreement with College Park. I'd rather drive our businesses the shortest distance.
"To do this kind of agreement, would be a cost saver," said Bell.