RFTA mulls unique policy for its natural-gas purchases | AspenTimes.com

RFTA mulls unique policy for its natural-gas purchases

CARBONDALE – The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is considering a natural-gas-procurement policy that it is touting as unprecedented in Colorado.

The local bus agency will likely vote next month on a policy that requires it to examine a natural-gas provider’s policies when exploring for, extracting and delivering its product. The policy also requires providers to improve any practices found lacking in its operations. A third-party expert organization would be enlisted by RFTA as a watchdog.

The proposed policy was unveiled for RFTA’s board of directors Thursday in Carbondale, though no formal vote was taken.

“RFTA should be patting ourselves on the back” for adopting such a policy, said Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman, a member of RFTA’s board of directors.

Snowmass Village Councilman John Wilkinson suggested that the bus agency look at a standards policy for procurement of diesel fuel, as well.

“I don’t want to buy fuel from countries that cane women for driving cars,” he said.

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Staff highly recommended that RFTA fine-tune and implement the policy on natural-gas procurement before it explores the challenges and advances of a policy on diesel fuel.

The idea for a policy on natural-gas procurement arose earlier in the year when RFTA decided it was going to order 22 buses that operated on compressed natural gas. It’s also opening a natural-gas compressor station at Glenwood Springs to serve its fleet. RFTA will put out its contract for natural gas to competitive bids. As part of that process, it will ask prospective providers to fill out a questionnaire on their practices. Their answers will help determine who gets the gas contract.

Todd Horsley, RFTA’s chief operating officer, said price will be the main consideration for the contract. The policy statement will be used as an incentive that gas providers can use to earn the contract.

RFTA planner Jason White headed a policy-advisory group to help draft the natural-gas policy. He said his research indicates that it is the first policy statement of its kind for a government in Colorado. Members of the advisory group were representatives from the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office, city of Aspen Environmental Health Department, Community Office for Resource Efficiency, Clean Energy Economy for the Region, Wilderness Workshop and Western Energy Project.

They crafted a statement that says, in full, “RFTA expects the gas and oil industry to adhere to industry best practices when exploring for, extracting, and delivering the energy resources upon which RFTA relies and, to the best of its ability, RFTA will attempt to do business with only those that do. When evaluating bids or proposals from gas suppliers, RFTA will consider both price and the policies and practices that suppliers have in place or are willing to put in place to mitigate the negative environmental and community impacts of resource extraction, development, production and transportation.”

The policy obligations must be fulfilled before a gas-supply contract will be awarded, Horsley said.

RFTA’s board wasn’t able to thoroughly discuss or vote on the proposal because its meeting ran past the allotted time. The policy will be discussed at the board’s October meeting.

scondon@aspentimes.com