Southern California Gas Co. has started the preliminary work needed to construct a compressed natural gas fueling station at its Santa Maria facility, located on Industrial Parkway, across from the Santa Maria Public Airport.

The station would service vehicles that are fueled by natural gas instead of gasoline or diesel fuel.

“Natural gas vehicles can reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by as much as 95 percent, carbon dioxide by as much as 30 percent, carbon monoxide by 85 percent and carcinogenic particulate emissions by 99 percent,” said Steven Ly, natural gas vehicle fueling project manager.

The company, owned by Sempra Energy, alerted its 3138 Industrial Parkway neighbors with a letter Monday of its plans to renovate the front portion of the property to include a compressed natural gas fueling station.

“It is just like a gas station,” explained David Beas, principal civil engineer for Santa Maria. “Trucks can come by, cars can come by.”

The effort has to receive Planning Commission and City Council approval before it can move forward.

Depending how much the station is used, the city’s Public Works Department may decide to create a dedicated center turn lane on Industrial Parkway to accommodate potential traffic. If a center lane is found to be needed, city officials would restrict on-street parking on both sides of the street about 50 feet north of the company, Beas said.

There are not many places for natural gas vehicles to fuel up locally, with just one station west of Santa Maria and another in Lompoc. 

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Southern California Gas Co. officials hope that growing the number of natural gas fueling stations will encourage more people to drive vehicles powered by natural gas.

“Greater access to fueling infrastructure could help truck and fleet owners consider switching from diesel to natural gas, which could help clear the air in the community,” Ly said.

Natural gas powers more than 150,000 vehicles in the United States and roughly 15.2 million vehicles worldwide, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Worldwide, natural gas is a popular fuel alternative for fleet vehicles, like buses, taxis, trash trucks, among others.

Southern California Gas Co. is the nation’s largest natural gas utility. It serves an area that is about 20,000 square miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Nevada and Arizona borders and from Visalia to the Mexican border.

Anyone with questions or concerns about the potential project should email Beas at dbeas@cityofsantamaria.org or Ly at sqly@semprautilities.com.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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City Government Reporter