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House passes bill to encourage natural gas use

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SALT LAKE CITY — The House passed a bill Wednesday that would allow Questar Gas to recover up to $5 million annually from ratepayers to cover the utility’s investments to encourage more Utahns to convert their vehicles to compressed natural gas.

“If we’re going to make a quantum leap in air quality, it’s not free,” said bill sponsor Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan.

Draxler said it is premature to know whether there will be an rate increase for Questar customers.

“If there was a rate increase,” he said, “it would be extremely minimal, and I’m talking about 12 cents a month.”

Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, proposed an amendment to lift the $5 million annual cap, saying the state needs to let Questar “look at what is the appropriate amount to spend in a fiscal year.” The amendment failed.

Representatives on both sides of the aisle echoed the concerns of Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, who said the amendment would give the gas company a blank check to spend whatever it wanted without any criteria.

Because the bill was amended in the House, it now returns to the Senate.

Mary Mellor