The commission began accepting applications on November 10 from Texas school districts who would like to get back the $800 to $7,500 they have spent on each pollution control device used on a school bus to limit toxic exhaust gases.
"One of my goals is to continue finding ways that will make our air cleaner while protecting our school children," said TCEQ Chairman Buddy Garcia. "The Legislature has appropriated over $7 million for clean school bus projects, which helps us begin to achieve that goal."
More than 36,000 buses carrying an estimated 1.3 million students hit the roads of Texas each school day. More than one-third of these buses are over 10 years old and the older buses emit more pollution than do newer models.
Diesel engines emit more than 35 toxic substances, including smog forming emissions and fine particulate matter, PM, usually called soot.
Some of the smaller particles of soot measure less than one-fortieth the thickness of human hair and so they are easily inhaled deep into the lungs.
Children, especially those with asthmas, are particularly sensitive to the effects of the fine particle pollution, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, which operates the national Clean School Bus program.
Children have a more rapid rate of respiration and they inhale more air per pound of body weight than adults do. And because their systems are still developing, the damage may be irreversible.
The current health-based standard for fine particles in the air - 15 micrograms per cubic meter - is being reviewed by the EPA and may be tightened. The EPA’s scientific advisors say that serious health effects occur at levels that are lower than the current standard.
The Texas Clean School Bus program recommends a number of ways to improve air quality for bus riding students, including retrofitting - installing new pollution control equipment on older buses.
"In some cases, an $800 retrofit can reduce emissions by 70 to 80 percent," said TCEQ Commissioner Larry Soward. "It's quick, easy to do, and some school districts have already installed pollution-control devices as part of their general maintenance schedule."
Newer technology has given school districts several options for cleaner-running school buses. They can install a closed crankcase filtration system, a diesel particulate filter, a diesel oxidation catalyst, an advanced catalytic converter for diesel vehicles, and a partial flow-through filter.
Costs range from $800 to $7,500 per device. Emissions are reduced by as much as 90 percent when these engine or exhaust retrofits are made, says the TCEQ.
All public school districts and charter schools in Texas that operate one or more diesel-powered school buses, or a transportation system provided by a countywide district, are eligible to be reimbursed for costs of approved retrofits.
The deadline for grant applications is February 29, 2008. For more information, click here.
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