Yellow School Buses to Run Cleaner in New York

ALBANY, New York, July 15, 2003 (ENS) - New York students are out enjoying their summer vacations, and when they do return to classes many of them can expect to enjoy cleaner air on their way to and from school. The familiar yellow school buses will emit fewer clouds of black diesel exhaust as retrofits to reduce the choking pollution are phased in across the state, especially in areas with poor air quality.

The New York Association of Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) has become the first statewide consortium in the United States to pledge major environmental improvements to school buses as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus USA program.

On Monday, NYAPT signed an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote pollution reducing retrofits on at least 5,000 diesel school buses a year through 2006.

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School buses in the town of Ulysses, New York (Photo courtesy Town of Ulysses)
"NYAPT's commitment will set the pace for other states and cities throughout the country," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane Kenny at the organization's 45th annual conference in Albany. The association works to support and develop the professionals responsible for transporting millions of New York children to and from school.

"School buses are the safest way to bring our children to school and back home - and our members transport 2.3 million children every day," said NYAPT President Scott Goble. "As we work together with the EPA and others in decreasing emissions from our buses, we will be making them still safer for our children."

According to the American Lung Association, diesel exhaust is a mixture containing over 450 different components, including vapors and fine particles, more than 40 of which are considered toxic air contaminants. Exposure to this mixture may result in cancer, exacerbation of asthma, and other health problems.

To protect school children from diesel exhaust, the NYAPT will aim to decrease unnecessary idling of school buses by at least 50 percent by 2005, and promote the adoption of anti-idling resolutions at least one-third of school districts in the state by next June.

Most school buses are powered by diesel engines that lack the sophisticated pollution controls now required on automobiles, such has catalytic converters. Burning the regular diesel fuel used by most school buses emits what the EPA says is "a significant amount" of fine particles, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide into the environment.

To address emissions from heavy duty diesel vehicles like school buses, the EPA has adopted new regulations that require all new diesel vehicles built in 2004 and later to be equipped with pollution controls.

By 2007, even more sophisticated pollution controls will be required, and diesel engines will be 95 percent cleaner than those of most buses on the road today, the agency says.

EPA is encouraging owners of trucks and bus fleets to use cleaner diesel fuel and to retrofit their pre-2004 vehicles with pollution controls because these trucks and buses may remain on the road for decades. NYAPT's program will address emissions from school buses before the new EPA standards take effect.

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Scott Goble heads the New York Association of Pupil Transportation. (Photo courtesy New York State Department of Motor Vehicles)
The NYAPT will encourage New York state lawmakers to introduce legislation that will codify the next generation of "clean" school buses, said Goble.

The association will advance this agenda "aggressively" and prepare its 650 members, but that will not be enough, Goble said. "We will also need to advocate for increased state and federal financial resources to help achieve our mutual goals."

NYAPT will lobby to enrich school aid to fund school bus retrofits, to pay for the incremental costs of using cleaner ultra-low sulfur diesel, and to accelerate purchases of new school buses equipped with clean diesel technology.

To reduce emissions of harmful pollutants from diesel school buses throughout the state, it will be necessary to train mechanics and drivers on how best to reduce idling and utilize better emissions control technology.

In addition, the association will work to educate fleet owners and operators about the advantages of retrofit technologies and cleaner fuel through workshops, newsletter articles and information on websites.

EPA pledged to support NYAPT's efforts to promote retrofits, anti-idling practices and school bus replacement by holding its own workshops, writing newsletter articles and doing other forms of public outreach.

The agency also promised to help bring cleaner burning ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel to parts of the state where it is currently unavailable and to identify funding opportunities for diesel retrofits.

The Clean School Bus USA program has attracted the interest of several cities such as New Haven, Connecticut; Boston, Massachusetts; and Dallas, Texas. But NYAPT's commitment makes New York the first state to adopt an overall clean school bus initiative.

Congress included $5 million in the EPA budget this year for a cost-shared grant program to assist school districts in upgrading their bus fleets. The agency is now accepting grant applications for this competition. Find out more at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/retrofit/latestnews.htm

The EPA offers a Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program online at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/retrofit/index.htm