Mar 29, 2014 4:57 PM by AP
LEESVILLE, La. (AP) - Two west-central Louisiana towns are preparing for a future in which vehicles are routinely fueled with compressed natural gas.
Plans were announced Friday for the town of Hornbeck to construct and operate a compressed natural gas station in nearby Leesville.
The Town Talk of Alexandria reports that Hornbeck has its own natural gas distribution system.
The town's pipeline runs through Leesville, very close to the location off U.S. Highway 171 where the station will be built.
Hornbeck will pay a portion of sales to Leesville as a franchise fee.
"I believe natural gas is positioned to be the No. 1 alternative fuel to help America achieve energy independence, for a few reasons," said Hornbeck Mayor Clarence Beebe. "Natural gas is abundant, natural gas is clean, it's affordable, and natural gas is safe."
Beebe acknowledges it will be years before most people will even think about natural gas as an alternative transportation fuel. Part of the reason for Friday's announcement, in fact, was to let the public know the station will be there and what benefits running vehicles on natural gas offers.
"It's not often that small, rural communities like ours have the opportunity to be part of something so forward-thinking and innovative," said Sen. John Smith, R-Leesville. "Normally, we don't have the funding and research to get there."
For now, most of the market is for municipalities and parishes using the fuel for their fleets of public vehicles and companies that use heavier trucks. Progressive Waste Solutions, which contracts with Vernon Parish for waste removal, has committed to converting its fleet.
"We have 22 police cars that are 5 years old that we have to look at replacing," said Leesville Mayor Robert Rose. "So it's the perfect time for us."
There are 16 public CNG stations in Louisiana, according to online trackers. Most are on or near Interstate 49 or in Baton Rouge.
In the western part of the state, there is a large void between Mansfield in the north and Lafayette in the south.
The Leesville station is expected to cost approximately $1.2 million to build. Beebe said there is no set construction schedule, but he hopes to have the station done within two years.
Beebe announced Friday that Hornbeck has reached a deal to supply natural gas for Diamond B Construction's nearby asphalt plant. If the plant operates at maximum capacity, he said, it could double Hornbeck's natural gas sales.