AUSTIN, TX --- Texas has passed a new law, set to go into effect on Sept. 1, which amends requirements for state agency purchases of alternative-fuel vehicles. 

The law (HB 432) changes regulations so that if an agency can demonstrate that it will incur net costs in meeting the alt-fuel vehicle requirements, that agency is exempt from those requirements. The law also broadens the applicable alt-fuel vehicles to include electric plug-in hybrids and vehicles that use biodiesel or a blend of diesel and biodiesel of 20 percent or greater. 

To comply with the law, alt-fuel vehicles must actually use alt-fuels - not just be capable of using them --at least 80 percent of drive time. The legislation sets a new deadline -- Sept. 20, 2010 -- for state agencies that operate a fleet of more than 15 vehicles to have at least 50 percent of their vehicles use alternative fuels. Law enforcement and emergency vehicles are excluded from this requirement.

The comptroller of public accounts will assume the power to reduce or waive these alt-fuel vehicle requirements. Previously, that power rested with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. 

A state agency, in its annual financial report to the legislature, must describe the availability of alternative fuels and provide data to determine the air-quality benefits from using them.  

Moreover, the Texas State Technical College must develop a program that provides training to state agencies converting an existing vehicle to meet fleet requirements. 

The law increases, from 10 to 25 percent, the minimum percentage of purchased vehicles, other than exempted vehicles, that must meet emission standards. 

HB 432 was authored by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-San Benito) and signed by Gov. Perry on Aug. 19. 

"Beyond the savings to Texas' carbon footprint, these measures will save the state an estimated $200 to $1,500 per vehicle, per year," Lucio told the Brownsville Herald. "That's another green aspect to this bill."