ACOG’s Central Oklahoma Clean Cities program recently played matchmaker for Bricktown Water Taxi and the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) allowing both to upgrade their fleets to alternative fuels. By matching these entities with funds administered by the State Energy Office at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Central Oklahoma Clean Cities gained two new private sector stakeholders and Central Oklahoma gained six whisper-quiet, 40-passenger, zero-emissions, electric powered canal boats and 21 clean-burning, low-emissions, natural gas powered vehicles. OBI uses its natural gas vehicles in the daily transport of vital blood supplies to Oklahoma hospitals.

The match was a fortuitous convergence of timing and the proverbial “right place.” Both Bricktown Water Taxi and OBI contacted ACOG’s Clean Cities staff in late spring 2012 in the hopes that a grant might be available for their envisioned altfuel projects. However, no applicable solicitations were open at the time.

As Clean Cities staff looked for ways to help get the projects off the ground, a door opened at the State Energy Office. Time was running out on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce had been the recipient of approximately $46 million dollars in 2009 ARRA State Energy Program funding. When ACOG inquired if any funds remained that could be redirected to another project, the timing was perfect. One ARRA project had fallen through and several others had come in slightly under budget. Approximately $500,000 could be scraped together. Commerce requested permission to redirect the funds to the Central Oklahoma Clean Cities recommended projects and the U.S. Department of Energy approved the expenditure with one caveat: both projects had to be completed by September 30, 2012.

From start to finish in little more than 90 days, with help from Central Oklahoma Clean Cities staff and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce these projects were planned, grant applications were completed, energy savings were calculated, alternative fuel systems were ordered and installed and vehicles were placed into service. The City of Oklahoma City in a public-private sector partnership with Bricktown Water Taxi served as the receiver agency for the electric Water Taxi funding. As a non-profit agency, OBI contracted directly with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to receive funding.

ACOG and its Central Oklahoma Clean Cities program staff are pleased to have been part of these successful projects. Our Clean Cities program works directly with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce State Energy Office and the U.S. Department of Energy throughout the year to encourage the use of alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles both to reduce dependence on imported petroleum and to improve air quality in the Central Oklahoma region.

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