Clearing the Air

July 2004, Government Fleet - Feature

by Tom Johnson

Jerry Nabhan was touched personally by two cancers in his family. He intuitively knew the connection between cancer and living in an area of seven million people, with five million cars producing 550 tons of hydrocarbons a day, a precursor of ozone and the main ingredient in smog. Nabhan, Sunnyvale, Calif.’s fleet manager, felt it was imperative to take action on the local level to slow the progression of environmental impacts, pollution, disease, and global warming.Noted as a progressive city, Sunnyvale has been named the 10th safest city in America. All officers train and work in both police and fire services. Assignment rotation provides employees with mental stimulation and a variety of experiences critical to maintaining high job performance. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 requires local governments to convert fleets to alternative fuel-powered vehicles. Local laws also encouraged the fleet department to use alternative fuels. And, Nabhan knew it was the right thing to do. He converted 19 residential waste-collection trucks from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG). These trucks reduce smog-forming and particulate pollution by 56 tons throughout the course of their operation. A proactive city, Sunnyvale hired Global Research and Analysis to survey citizens on their perceptions of city services. Global Research asked Nabhan to heighten awareness of the city’s reduction of pollution and noise (citizens used to wake up to the sound of trash trucks). Nabhan and his staff came up with the idea of showcasing their zero-emissions CNG trucks.Global Resources hosted a “Dinner at the Dump” for 340 residents, featuring oysters, steaks, salmon, and chili cooked by public safety officers. Nabhan’s wife and mother made more than 340 strawberry shortcakes. The event raised $15,600 for the needy in Sunnyvale. Since the “Dinner at the Dump” event, and the resulting publicity, the city’s fueling station sells more CNG fuel to the public than used by the entire fleet.

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