Tax credits, parity with natural gas fuel Texas group’s Propane Days

June 28, 2013 By    

Texas Propane Gas Association (TPGA) members and staff met June 18 with five congressional offices during the annual Propane Days in Washington, D.C., sitting down directly with three House of Representatives members: Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas; Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas; and Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, who, at age 90, is the oldest House member in U.S. history.

The group discussed several issues with its representatives, including its stance on alternative fuel and infrastructure tax credits and the need to establish parity for propane with natural gas in energy policy. The group often leaned on propane autogas as a means of having a discussion with its representatives, promoting the fact that more than 70 school districts across Texas have made investments in autogas for busing.

“Texas has probably the largest number of school buses running on propane,” Van Hoy told Wes Hambrick, legislative correspondent for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Van Hoy’s message was a resounding one throughout the meetings. Another point the group stressed was that autogas is as viable, if not more so, than natural gas as a motor fuel. Furthermore, the group pointed out that autogas is typically the lesser-known motor fuel because natural gas has a greater lobbying force.

“We don’t have the horsepower to go out like natural gas,” Van Hoy told Sessions.

Alternative fuel and infrastructure tax credits were a popular talking point as well, as the credits currently represent the only pending legislative item with direct implications for propane, Van Hoy said.

The group encouraged congressmen to support the Natural Gas Energy and Alternatives Rewards Act (NGEAR) that extend tax credits for propane autogas and its refueling stations through 2016. But although Texas lobbied for passage of the bill introduced by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in 2012 and reintroduced this year, the group believes autogas has a better chance to thrive if no incentives are available.

“Propane works with incentives and without (users) having to reach for [incentives],” Rob Chalmers, Pinnacle Propane’s senior vice president of corporate development, told Sessions.

Van Hoy echoed Chalmers’ sentiment during the meeting with Hambrick.

“We’re not really big on incentive programs, but if there are incentive programs the key is to be on par with natural gas,” Van Hoy said.

According to Jackie Mason, who handles regulatory and legislative affairs at TPGA, tax extenders typically emerge from the House Committee on Ways & Means. During Propane Days, the Texas contingent visited with the office of one of that committee’s members, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, whose district includes suburban and rural areas north of Houston.

Green, another congressmen whose district sits in Houston and some of its surrounding suburbs, told the group he’d be happy to support Casey’s bill.

“I assume burning propane as a transportation fuel has the same benefits as CNG,” Green said.

Green, who serves on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, said the federal government should do more to support domestically produced energies like propane.

“We’re not doing some of the things we should be doing,” he said. “Fortunately, the market is taking care of itself at the moment.”

In addition to meeting with Green, Sessions, Hall and other congressional staffers, the Texas group met briefly with Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a meet-and-greet event in which Cruz reiterated his desire to abolish the IRS and impose a flat tax instead.

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik was a senior editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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