Cleaner, cheaper, garbage trucks planned in BR area

These garbage trucks are cleaner, cheaper to use and quieter. And the best benefit: They emit less pollution, a bonus to the five-parish area around Baton Rouge that has struggled to meet federal ozone pollution standards.

Waste Management announced Thursday it will replace 40 diesel-powered trucks in its Baton Rouge fleet with to those using compressed natural gas.

The company has 53 trucks that collect various types of waste from East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension, Pointe Coupee, Tangipahoa, East Feliciana and West Feliciana parishes, said Warren Guedry Jr., public sector solutions manager of the Gulf Coast Area with Waste Management.

The conversion, expected to start later this year and be complete by May 2015, will mean these garbage trucks will not be using 320,000 gallons of diesel each year.

That will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 880 metric tons per year, said René Faucheux, manager of government and community affairs with Waste Management.

“This is a big deal,” said Matt Sutherland, board president of Louisiana Clean Fuels. Not only does the use of compressed natural gas improve air quality, but it also saves the company money since it costs about $1 a gallon less than diesel, he said.

Also, trucks powered by compressed natural gas trucks are much quieter than those running on diesel.

Waste Management’s change to compressed natural gas-powered trucks will be accompanied by construction of a fueling station in Walker, where the Baton Rouge fleet is based.

As has been done at other Waste Management fueling stations, Faucheux said, they’ll be considering partnerships with public agencies or private businesses to open up an adjacent public-access fueling station.

The fleet change in the Baton Rouge area is part of a larger goal of the Waste Management’s commitment to transition 80 percent of its fleet nationwide — more than 20,000 vehicles — to alternative fuels by 2020, Faucheux said.

The cleaner fuel will not be releasing as much pollution that contributes to ozone, a reduction that can help as the five-parish area around Baton Rouge works to maintain compliance with federal ozone standards.

Changing from gasoline or diesel to compressed natural gas gives a substantial reduction in the amount of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, two major components that make up ozone pollution, said Michael Vince, environmental scientist senior with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Ozone pollution forms when these volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides combine in the air during hot and sunny days. When there is little wind to disperse this pollution, it can accumulate in an area and contribute to health problems.

The five-parish area of East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville and Livingston has struggled for years to meet previous federal standards for ozone pollution.

Although the area is meeting the federal standard, it’s expected the Environmental Protection Agency could make the standard more stringent.

Although Waste Management will be building a fueling station in Walker, the trucks get about 220 miles from a full tank of compressed natural gas, so that will mean a need for more fueling stations. That doesn’t mean Waste Management will be building them.

“If this catches on like we think it’s going to catch on, there will be other businesses who want to do the same thing,” Guedry said.

Those companies will also likely build fueling stations, which will increase the infrastructure needed to support fleets traveling farther distances.