Setting an example for county and state governments, Salt Lake City vehicles are being converted to natural gas to "do our part to clean up the air," Mayor Deedee Corradini reported Thursday.
"We can't clean up our air alone. We hope to be a catalyst for others in government and in the private sector," Corradini told members of the Salt Lake City-County Board of Health. She challenged county and state governments to convert their vehicles to natural gas.In other action, a board vote on proposed environmental tobacco laws to limit smoking in public buildings was postponed. The board is further evaluating data.
So far, about 29 vehicles have been converted to natural gas at a cost of $2,000 to $3,000 per vehicle. But in the long run, the city saves money - in addition to reducing pollution - because the cost of maintaining natural gas vehicles is lower. The mayor reported that the city saves about $350 per vehicle per year in maintenance costs. Natural gas also extends the life of a vehicle.
"We're trying to convert the rest of the fleet as soon as we can," she said.
The mayor has met with Gov. Mike Leavitt and county officials "to try to convince them to change."
As more government vehicles make the switch, gas stations will locate throughout the city to make it more convenient to fill up.
Corradini will campaign to persuade the private sector, with about 20,000 vehicles, to change to natural gas.
In the past, people have been reluctant to switch to natural gas because it was believed the cars had less power. But after test driving five natural-gas automobiles, Corradini reported that the cars accelerated at the same rate as regular gasoline-powered automobiles.
To further reduce polluted air, city employees have been issued free UTA passes - similar to programs adopted by the University of Utah and the LDS Church Office, she said.
City employees are riding the bus more often and riding their bicycles to work. The city has completed a study of proposed bike paths to make it easier for bikers to ride safely in downtown traffic.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the board recognized the announced retirement of Dr. Harry Gibbons, commending him for 22 years of dedicated service to improve the health of Utahns. A search committee was assigned to find a replacement for Gibbons.