FORT SMITH — Arkansas’ Clean Burning Motor Fuel Development Fund could only be filled up with a third of a tank this year, leaving three Fort Smith businesses with a "no go" on plans to build compressed natural gas stations.
FORT SMITH — Arkansas’ Clean Burning Motor Fuel Development Fund could only be filled up with a third of a tank this year, leaving three Fort Smith businesses with a “no go” on plans to build compressed natural gas stations.
The Arkansas Legislature allocated $800,000 to the fund instead of the $2.4 million expected. Twenty applications were submitted for six $400,000 rebate grants from the Arkansas Energy Office, a division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
“It was $2.4 million when the program was announced, and that total was based on some legislative money that was going to come to us, but when that didn’t materialize it left us with $800,000,”AEDC spokesman Scott Hardin said. “The rest of the money was not awarded so we could only do two grants.”
The Arkansas Energy Office awarded the funds last week through the Gaseous Fuels Rebate Program to stations in Springdale and West Memphis.
The Fort Smith area companies — Frost Oil Company in Van Buren, Arkansas Oklahoma Gas and FS CNG — that applied for the rebates say they will consider applying again. AOG has a CNG station on Waldron Road and supplies compressed natural gas to the OnCue on Main Street in Arkoma.
This will be the first CNG station for West Memphis and Springdale. The price for a gallon equivalent of compressed natural gas was $1.47 Monday at the AOG station on Waldron Road, and $1.99 in Arkoma, according to CNGprices.com.
None of the development fund rebate money was earmarked for a certain region, Hardin said. The Arkansas Energy Office used a list of criteria for evaluation, scoring 10 points for “existing market for fleets,” 25 points for “geography,” 35 points for “project feasibility,” and 10 points for “long-term operation and maintenance.”
State Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, was the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 792 for Act 532 that created the fund. Teague said Monday the fund could be allocated more money in the future and that additional money was expected to be set aside for grants to rebate conversions of automobiles to compressed natural gas.
Hardin said the exact amount granted to the fund for automobile conversions would be better known as the launch of the program nears.
Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the project was “worthy” but there simply was not enough money in the governor’s General Improvement Fund to contribute this year.
The stations in Springdale and West Memphis each will receive the $400,000 rebate once the station is available to the general public later this year. The stations are the Kum & Go at 1220 E. Robinson in Springdale, and the Love’s Travel Stop & Country Store at 800 Martin Luther King Drive in West Memphis. Springdale’s other CNG station is a Kum & Go at 500 N. Old Missouri.
No companies in Teague’s district applied for the grants, he said, but he thought that AOG may be going ahead on another CNG station in Fort Smith despite not being awarded the development fund grant.
“We’re looking real hard at it right now and we have to run the numbers and see where we are,” AOG President Mike Callan said. “But it’s not an easy decision when you’re counting on getting a $400,000 grant on something and you don’t get it.”
Joe Frost, president of Frost Oil Company, said his company might apply again if more money is allocated. Christopher Conley, FS CNG’s attorney with the Fort Smith firm Hayes, Alford and Johnson, also said the company would consider reapplying for the grant if more money was allocated.