Home - Clean & Back - Day 14

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Day 14, Saturday 15 August 1998

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. You'll recall that the Clean Cities Coalitions I visited yesterday were named the Capital District Clean Communities (not yet formally designated a CCC, but soon...) and the Clean Communities of Central New York; on my way west today I bypassed the newly designated Genesee Region Clean Communities around Rochester, NY (I didn't know about them when I started nailing down the itinerary for this trip--sorry!). This "Clean Communities" theme was started by the Clean Communities of Western New York, whose model of organizing a Clean Cities Coalition around several smaller cities or even a couple of counties (instead of one metropolitan area) was replicated by the others, and in whose territory I stopped first today.

Buffalo group

I met nine participants in this Clean Cities Coalition, representing several of the major stakeholders, at their newest refueling station on the Amherst campus of SUNY Buffalo. This is the largest group yet to greet me at a stop! From left to right in the photo are Ernie Alstrom of Niagara Mohawk; William Pauly, member from the 14th. District of the Erie County Legislature and Coordinator of the Clean Communities of Western New York; Anthony Moeser of the Town of Amherst; Bob Poole of National Fuel; Fredric Smeader of SUNY Buffalo; Linda Hardie of William Pauly's staff; Scott Pauly of the Amherst Conservation Advisory Council; Peter Warn of the Erie County Environmental Management Council; and Jim Loughran, also of William Pauly's staff. Thanks also to John Hayes, Fleet Manager of SUNY Buffalo, who sent me the codes to use the compressed natural gas dispenser; this is the first I've seen with passwords and codes, but no physical fueling card.

In addition to the SUNY fleet, this Clean Cities Coalition has CNG vehicles in a variety of municipal and state fleets; Anthony Moeser pulled up in a very nice factory-equipped CNG Ford Crown Victoria owned by Amherst that I wish I'd shot a picture of! They are making a push for alternative-fueled vehicle use at the new airport and by the bus system; their initial CNG component of the local bus fleet, I'm told, is pretty high-profile, with distinctive paint schemes and "Big Green Clean Machine" labels. Legislator Pauly thinks they are close to making the breakthrough with commercial fleets; with the increasing density of refueling stations and the substantial state tax incentives I mentioned yesterday, it should become an easier and easier sell.

One idea that I, as a long-distance traveler, found interesting was to put CNG refueling stations along the New York State Thruway. This is a toll road that runs east-west across the entire state (with some north-south spurs); services are available about every thirty miles at large "islands" with food and fuel, so you can get both without having to go through toll gates to exit and re-enter the Thruway. As contracts for these service plazas come up for renewal, there is a statewide effort to put CNG dispensers at the fuel stations there. This would make it even easier than it already is (certainly I've had no trouble!) to go long distances across New York--another big draw for commercial fleets, especially those whose main business is long-distance hauling.

entering Pennsylvaniaentering Ohio

Next I continued on I-90 (equals the Thruway in New York) around Lake Erie, across the northwestern tip of Pennsylvania, and on to Cleveland, OH. The way the highway runs, you don't really catch your first look at the Lake until you're just about into Cleveland. I don't think I've seen any of the Great Lakes since the last time I visited Chicago, many years ago, and I had forgotten just how Great they are--there are no visual clues to tell you that you're not looking at an ocean, unless you count the fact that there are no breakers.

East Ohio Gas

I refueled at the East Ohio Gas station on the east end of the city. The fine print below the sunburst design at the upper right says "East Ohio Gas, The Sunshine People, A CNG Company"; CNG here stands for Consolidated Natural Gas, who actually have "CNG" registered as a service mark and don't endorse the use of those three letters to stand for "Compressed Natural Gas", which is what nearly everybody else does... Hope Gas in West Virginia is also a CNG subsidiary, which explains their connection with Joe Mezquita, the East Ohio Gas employee who took the Super Comp crown at the Fram Nationals this summer in a natural-gas-powered dragster, as I had noted when I visited West Virginia a week ago.

Legislator Pauly told me that the natural-gas refueling station at the city bus "barn" in Cleveland was a model he'd like to see emulated; apparently it's the largest such facility he's seen. I had hoped to go find it and take a look and shoot some photos, but I took a long time to get to my hotel from the refueling station (should've looked at my maps more closely), so I decided to check phones and e-mail and work on the website instead. Thanks to Jim Dougherty of East Ohio Gas, who set up my stop here, and to Sue Stone, who let me in the gate and talked with me awhile about others who use the facility. Apparently this station is used less than it used to be, but that's because many new stations have been built (like the bus depot I was told about) rather than because fewer natural-gas vehicles are being driven around the city! Cleveland is not part of any Clean Cities Coalition, but the people there have put together the same kind of commitment to alternative fuels.

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new 15 August 1998, revised 17 August 1998