Utility, Dollywood team up to improve air quality in the Smokies

The millions of people hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend will be paying upwards of $3.60 for a gallon for gas.

Imagine if you only had to pay $2 per gallon. While you need a special vehicle to get those prices, Sevier County Utility District (SCUD) is now offering an option at that price.

The utility opened to the public a natural compressed gas refueling station Friday. The station is one of only a few in the state and the first in our region.

SCUD held a ceremony Friday afternoon where Governor Bill Haslam complimented their innovation and potential environmental benefits.

"This is exciting and important because they've found a way to lower the cost to their users but also to provide a product that's going to help clean up the air," Governor Haslam said.

"We all, in this area in particular, know that air quality needs to improve here because it's so important not just to our health but our economic well-being."

Dollywood's new DreamMore resort will use the utility's natural gas to power its trolleys. The fleet will take guests to and from the park when the 306 room resort opens summer 2015.

"This partnership better serves our environment. The beautiful Smoky Mountains are an integral part of Dollywood's DreamMore Resort, and we endeavor to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible," said Amy Owenby, Dollywood's vice president of hospitality.

SCUD has plans to move its entire fleet of work vehicles to natural gas. They have seven natural gas-powered trucks in operation.

The company's president, Matt Ballard, demonstrated that you fill up the car the same way you would at a gas station. The price Friday was $2.00 for an equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.

"You're saving on an average $1.50 to $2 per gallon by using natural gas. Plus you're saving our environment, helping preserve our Great Smoky Mountains National Park by cutting down on emissions," Ballard said.

The Environmental Protection Agency said compressed natural gas is considered one of the cleanest fossil fuels because it generates less exhaust and emits fewer greenhouse gases.


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