Friday, April 3, 2009

School district to discuss biodiesel plans

Fuel storage tank the topic for Wednesday public meeting

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District's buses are ready to run on biodiesel, but now the district plans to store its own fuel. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Blaine County School District will present its plans for a biodiesel storage tank at the district's Bus Maintenance Facility on Fox Acres Road during a special public meeting on Wednesday, April 8.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. at the Community Campus in Room 301-302.

"This is just an informal meeting for the neighbors so we can hear from them before we go to planning and zoning," said Mike Chatterton, the school district business manager.

The district recently shifted its entire yellow bus fleet to biodiesel, but can start using a higher grade of the fuel with installation of a 12,000-gallon storage tank. Chatterton said the tank will be "self-contained, fully encased in concrete, so there's no risk of spillage" and "strategically placed in an area where it would be nonvisible."

The district's 27 school buses are currently running on B5 biodiesel, which is 5 percent biodiesel, a fuel derived from vegetable oils or animal fats, and 95 percent regular diesel. However, the district would be able to shift to B20 biodiesel and make bulk purchases of the fuel with installation of the storage tank.

The buses currently fuel with B5 at biodiesel pumps behind the Hailey Chevron station. B20 is not available for pump sales in the Wood River Valley, but could be shipped in bulk and at a price comparable to regular diesel, which typically sells for 20 to 30 cents cheaper than B20.

Chatterton said B20 is a more environmentally friendly fuel than either B5 or regular diesel. Plus, fueling at the bus maintenance facility would eliminate an estimated 1,455 vehicle trips per year through Hailey for bus fueling. In addition, he estimated the district would save about $10,000 annually in bus driver salaries because of the reduced time for fueling.

Chatterton said the Hailey Environmental Leadership Program committee is favorable to the plan, and conversion to B20 would help meet a commitment the school district made to the city.

"I can't see much opposition to it," he said.

Terry Smith:

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