Order to cut fuel sends agency chiefs scrambling

October 24, 1990|By Kim Clark

An article in The Sun yesterday about efforts of state agencies to conserve energy and gasoline incorrectly identified the Mass Transit Administration as the Maryland Transportation Authority.

State officials throughout Maryland started scrambling yesterday to fill in the details to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's just-announced state energy conservation policy.

While some state administrators had already turned down thermostats, many Maryland officials contacted by The Sun yesterday said they hadn't been informed of the governor's directive on Monday that all state operations should reduce energy and gasoline usage by 5 percent.


And many of those working to implement the conservation and alternate fuels plan said they were searching for suppliers and money to pay them with.

At the Department of the Environment, George P. Ferreri said he was looking for an extra $65,000 to pay for the experiment with six natural gas-powered automobiles the governor requested.

Mr. Ferreri, who is director of the Air Management Administration, said he hoped to buy the cars and begin tests on their fuel efficiency and reliability before the end of the year.

The Maryland Transportation Authority, which is supposed to purchase several natural gas-powered buses to experiment with the alternative fuel, is working up bids and doesn't know yet how many buses the program's $3 million appropriation will end up buying, said Helen Dale, an agency spokeswoman.

At the Workers' Compensation Commission in Baltimore, Rex Brookshire, director of administration, said he hadn't been officially informed of the plan and wasn't sure how the commissioners could reduce their energy consumption by 5 percent.

hTC "We already have an aggressive policy to turn off lights when they are not being used . . . We don't want to work in semidarkness," he said.

The commissioners "still have to go to Salisbury for hearings. But maybe instead of going four days a week, for example, they could go two times for two days apiece. Of course, then you'd have to pay for the hotel," Mr. Brookshire said.

One agency, though, immediately ordered thermostats turned down at the more than two dozen state buildings it manages around the state.

Joseph Harrison, spokesman for the Maryland Department of General Services, said that as of yesterday, thermostats at Annapolis and Baltimore state office complexes, as well as 12 regional office buildings around the state, had been lowered from 72 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

And the department ordered that during the summer, air conditioning would cool the offices down to 78 degrees, instead of the previous 72-degree level, he said.

In addition, the department is considering hiring a company to install gasoline tanks on state property to give the state a 15-cent-a-gallon bulk purchase discount for its automobile fleet. Currently, state employees driving on government business buy fuel at regular gas stations using government-issued credit cards.

Mr. Harrison said the new fuel system would allow the department to keep closer tabs on employees who might be abusing their state gasoline credit cards.

State employees probably won't notice the changes "until the first cold snap," he said.

"We're asking people to work with us. They should dress appropriately. If that means they have to put on a sweater, then by all means they should do so."

The General Services Department had been looking to improve energy efficiency in the state buildings it manages for about two years, Mr. Harrison said.

William S. Shepard, who is challenging Mr. Schaefer for the governor's seat in next month's election, called Monday's state energy conservation announcement "an electioneering tactic."

"Governor Schaefer specializes in calling press conferences and appointing commissions to take care of popular interest in items, and then the follow-through is not there," Mr. Shepard said.

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