NW Natural, the Portland-based natural gas utility, is going into the filling station business.

NW Natural won approval from state utility regulators Wednesday to build and operate high-pressure natural gas fueling stations for business customers. The stations will be built on the site of companies that have fleets of at least 40 vehicles, NW Natural says.

Natural gas fuel is cheaper than gasoline right now, and has a lower carbon footprint. But Oregon lacks the equivalent of gas stations to offer the fuel to commercial or residential customers.

Wednesday’s decision by the Oregon Public Utility Commission will open the door to establish such infrastructure for commercial vehicles.

Residential customers will have to wait, for now.

“Oregon is a leader in electric vehicles, but we lag far behind other states in the use of natural gas vehicles,” says PUC Chair Susan Ackerman. “This proposal is a step forward toward changing that situation.”

NW Natural customers must enter into 10-year contracts or longer to obtain the service.

Clean Energy, a West Coast chain of natural gas fueling stations owned by businessman T. Boone Pickens, opposed NW Natural’s proposal. But the Citizens Utility Board and Northwest Industrial Gas Users both urged PUC to approve the idea.

Oregon Department of Energy officials predicted the proposal is likely to attract more competitors in the field in future years — not push out competition as Pickens maintained — as demand for compressed natural gas grows.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Twitter: @SteveLawTrib

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