- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Natural gas-powered garbage trucks that are expected to emit less pollution will be rolled out in Baton Rouge, an area that has struggled to meet federal ozone pollution standards.

Garbage disposal company Waste Management said 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 waste from East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension, Pointe Coupee, Tangipahoa, East Feliciana and West Feliciana parishes, spokesman Warren Guedry Jr. told The Advocate (http://bit.ly/1obVKH1).

The conversion, expected to start later this year and be complete by May 2015, will mean the trucks will not be using 320,000 gallons of diesel each year, are expected to be cheaper to operate and will make less noise.

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.

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

The fleet change is part of Waste Management’s goal of transitioning 80 percent of its fleet nationwide - more than 20,000 vehicles - to alternative fuels by 2020, Faucheux said.

The cleaner fuel will not release as much pollution that contributes to ozone, a reduction that might help the five-parish area to meet 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 with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Ozone pollution forms when 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 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.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com