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Electric Vehicles at Utah’s National Parks Improve Air Quality

By Utah Clean Cities Coalition, Guest Blogger

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

The number of visitors to Utah’s National Parks and Monuments has increased steadily over the last decade. In 2014, Utah National Parks welcomed millions of visitors:

Although these numbers translate into economic dollars for the surrounding towns and the state, they also raise quality concerns in a region known for pristine vistas. What can we do to strike a balance?

The Utah Clean Cities Coalition (UCCC) thought this would be a great opportunity for a workshop to explore the potential alternative fuel (AF) and advanced technology vehicles (ATVs) options available to the National Park Service (NPS) to mitigate the impacts from the high volumes of visitors to parks. On Dec. 1, 2015, UCCC and the Office of Energy Development (OED) held a National Parks Clean Cities Initiative Workshop in St. George. Representatives from Zion National Park, Pipe Springs National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Timpanogos Cave National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and Parashant National Monument were in attendance, along with compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), electric vehicle (EV), biofuels, and idle-free industry leaders.

The central theme of the workshop was the Clean Cities National Park Initiative, a program to support transportation projects that educate park visitors about the benefits of cutting petroleum use and vehicle emissions. The agenda focused on providing park officials with the information and guidance needed to create their own clean transportation projects and work with UCCC to apply for grants through the program sponsored by the Department of Energy. The goal of the workshop was to help Utah Parks to take advantage of this opportunity by increasing ATVs in their fleets, expanding AF and ATV infrastructure, and educating visitors about the importance of cleaner transportations choices.

Zion National Park has been successful with this grant program. In 2014, with grant monies from the Clean Cities National Park Initiative, Zion replaced three older vehicles with three EVs and installed 10 new EV charging stations in the park. As part of this program, they also spearheaded an Idle Free campaign within their administration and throughout the park, which encourages visitors and staff to be Idle Free. The new EVs are a great addition to their alternative fuel vehicle fleet of 31 propane shuttle buses and trailers. This shuttle uses over approx. 290,000 gallons of propane a year, eliminating several hundred tons of emissions each year. Zion has been an alternative fuels leader in Utah, and UCCC wants to bring more parks onboard.

Jim Evanoff, retired Superintendent for Yellowstone National Park, was on hand to answer any questions park officials had regarding the transitions to alternative fuels and their benefits. Industry leaders were also able to share their insight about the success and upcoming technology with each fuel. Workshop coordinators were pleased with how knowledgeable park representatives were regarding AF and ATV options and benefits and were encouraged by their interest in the grant program.

UCCC is eager to start working with Utah Parks on the goals established during the workshop. First and foremost, participants expressed an overwhelming interest in an EV corridor between the parks. This will help the parks improve their air quality internally and give visitors more options when travelling to the parks. Idle Free was also identified a critical program for implementation, with several of the parks having already adopted the “Turn Your Key Be Idle Free” slogan from the UCCC program. This encourages visitors to turn off their vehicles if they are going to be in one place longer than 10-30 seconds.

“Our parks want to be the leaders in doing the right thing and encourage visitors to do the same,” said Robin Erickson, Executive Director and Southern Coordinator, of the UCCC. “We are very excited to work with them in accomplishing this worthwhile endeavor with the grants we have to offer.”

Visit the Utah Clean Cities Coalition website to learn more about how alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles help protect our air quality. Want to out an alternative fuel vehicle but not sure where to start? EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide can help you find the vehicle that meets your needs and helps protect air quality.

Utah Clean Cities Coalition (UCCC), formerly Salt Lake Clean Cities, was the 16th coalition in the nation to join the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Clean Cities Program in 1994. Today it is one of nearly 100 coalitions across the country that is part of the U.S. DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Program—a program designed to reduce the U.S. import and overall consumption of petroleum. In the last two decades, UCCC has grown into a statewide, 501(c) 3 nonprofit with a robust network that spans the state and the nation. Through the promotion of alternative fuels, alternative fuel vehicles, and fuel economy strategies, the coalition has worked to ease concerns about volatile gas prices and rising public and environmental health issues. Working closely with the federal and state government, as well as its stakeholders, UCCC leverages its resources to bring funding into Utah to support the development and deployment of alternative fuel infrastructure and vehicles.

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