A former Teton County commissioner told Fox News that Wyoming’s richest county should have bought natural gas-powered buses instead of the electric fleet that has recently broken down.
Eight electric buses have broken down and are in need of parts, Paul Vogelheim told Fox News commentator Jesse Watters in his Sept. 29 segment. The report was responding to a Cowboy State Daily story that reported on the new inoperable electric buses.
“(It’s) the way that we’re kind of operating these days – we’re looking for that shiny, bright object. We all gotta go with zero emissions from battery-powered buses,” said Vogelheim. “It’s kind of sad, because we’re sitting next to a county that has the largest field of natural gas.”
He was likely referring to Sublette County, which in 2022 accounted for 51% of Wyoming’s natural gas production and borders Teton County, according to the State Geological Survey.
The Southern Teton Area Rapid Transit (START) system, a joint operation between Teton County and the town of Jackson, bought the electric buses to add to its existing 31-bus fleet.
Vogelheim told Fox News they cost between $800,000 and $1 million apiece, and the entity bought them with federal money.
“So, we paid for the broken buses,” said Watters.
The California-based company that made the buses, Proterra, filed for bankruptcy in August.
START Director Bruce Abel told Cowboy State Daily last week that the agency still isn’t sure when the parts needed to fix the buses will come or when START’s electric fleet will be running again.
“We’re evaluating our options to see how we can work through that and make sure that they can be on the road,” Abel said.
Neither Abel, Jackson Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson nor Teton County Commission Chair Luther Propst responded by publication time Tuesday to emails (sent to Morton Levinson and Abel) or voicemails (sent to Propst and Abel) to answer inquiries about the buses’ current status and the feasibility of natural gas-powered public transit.
Vogelheim told Watters that the Jackson area is enjoying a lull after hosting 5 million tourists this summer.
It’s the shoulder season, a reprieve from onslaughts of visitors.
But this winter another 1 million visitors are expected for ski season and other winter activities, said Vogelheim, and then the community will have “a huge demand for buses.”
The majority of the START fleet are diesel buses, he said.
He said he hopes the local government leaders will come up with a solution to compensate for the eight offline buses.
Vogelheim touted natural gas, not just as a fuel option but as a way of being neighborly.
“It would be good for Teton County, but also telling the rest of this state that we support them in terms of their continued extraction of natural gas,” he said.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.