Altered Bill Stymies School Districts’ Alternative Fuel Programs


PHOENIX — A change in SB-1504, the bill mandating minimum standards for alternative fuels (school districts), has ten Arizona school district business managers in an alternative fuel consortium, questioning why they invested hundreds of thousand of dollars in the alternative fuel program.

As of August 22, the districts were prepared to purchase two million gallons of biodiesel for their school buses. According to Paul Cochran, Kyrene School District fleet supervisor, changes to the bill mandating alternative fuels were noticed right before contracts were awarded.

“SB 1504 used to read that by Dec. 31, 2000, 75 percent of a districts total fleet had to run on alternative fuel. We discovered that legislators changed the mandate a couple of months ago to read ‘five percent of the total fleet by Dec. 31, 2002; 15 percent by 2003; 33 percent by Dec. 31, 2004; and, 75 percent by Dec. 31, 2006.’ The changes have set back our alternative fuel program by five years,” said Cochran.

“Biodiesel can be used for up to fifty percent of our alternative fuel mandates,” he said. “Now that we don’t have to meet the 75 percent mandate by the end of the year, only five percent instead, a lot of the districts don’t want to spend the extra funding. Some districts wanted a half-million dollars of biodiesel that runs 35- to 37-cents more than standard diesel. When you talk a quarter of a million dollars difference in budget, [they] shy off knowing they don’t have to meet the 75 percent standard until 2006.”

Some business managers now wish they had waited until the last minute to see if there were going to be any changes made to the bill. As for the contracts, Cochran explains letters will go out by the end of August to the school districts in the alternative fuel consortium. “If we get a majority vote,” notes Cochran, “we’ll go ahead and award the contracts.”