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EPA Awards $15,000 to Rhode Island for Clean, Green School Bus Awareness Program

Release Date: 02/02/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

For Immediate Release: February 2, 2004; Release # 04-02-07

WARWICK, RI - At a ceremony today at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $15,000 grant to help Rhode Island in its efforts to reduce pollution emissions from diesel school buses. The EPA funding will go to the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM), which is partnering with the New England Asthma Regional Council (ARC) on the school bus project.

“These funds will help kick-start a Clean, Green School Bus Awareness Program for Warwick and other communities across Rhode Island,” said Ira Leighton, deputy regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “We can accomplish a great deal through education and outreach. With these funds, the state will be able to help schools implement some simple steps to reduce school bus idling and diesel air pollution.”

Today’s announcement comes three days after EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt announced that President Bush is seeking a significant funding increase in the 2005 budget request to Congress for cleaner school buses nationwide.

President Bush’s 2005 budget proposal will request an unprecedented $65 million for Clean School Bus USA – EPA’s initiative to reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust. Clean School Bus USA has three key elements: 1) reduce school bus idling and reinforce smart driving practices; 2) retrofit existing buses with pollution controls; 3) replace the oldest buses with new, cleaner buses.

With the grant funds, DEM, in partnership with ARC, will prepare informational materials about the risks that diesel exhaust can pose to school children. The materials will also recommend strategies that schools, and others, can use to reduce emissions from school buses. DEM will work with school administrators, school bus operators, municipal officials, and others to disseminate these materials widely.

“Reducing unnecessary idling of school buses is one example of how we can lessen children’s exposure to diesel exhaust,” said Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Acting Director Frederick Vincent. “This EPA grant will enable us to develop informational materials on the health risks associated with diesel air pollution, along with steps that school departments and school bus operators throughout the state can take to reduce emissions from school buses. The Clean, Green School Bus Awareness initiative recognizes that children’s exposure to diesel from school buses is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

The New England Asthma Regional Council (ARC), also a partner in this project, is a coalition of public agencies, private organizations and researchers in New England working to reduce the impact of asthma on children and families. ARC’s research and action concentrates on eliminating asthma triggers from schools and homes across the region.

“New Englanders are suffering disproportionately from asthma, and we believe that outdoor and indoor air quality is partly to blame,” explained Ellen Tohn, Senior Advisor to the Asthma Regional Council. “We need to think of creative ways to tackle our dirty air, and reducing children’s exposure to diesel school bus fumes is one of those ways. We are thrilled to be working in partnership with Rhode Island to help school districts get the tools they need to reduce diesel bus emissions and further protect children’s health.”

The City of Warwick has already taken a number of steps to reduce pollution from their 27 schools. All 27 schools participate in an energy conservation management program. The school district is in the fifth year of this program and has saved close to $2 million in the first four years. Specifically, at Green Elementary School, they are using biodiesel instead of oil in their boiler, which provides heat to the school. In addition, since March 2003, the school district has been participating in a one-year pilot project to fuel their school buses with mixture of biodiesel and diesel fuel.
First Student, the school bus contractor that operates the school buses for Warwick, is also doing its part by actively encouraging their drivers to comply with their voluntary anti-idling policy.
The particles in diesel exhaust can penetrate deep into the lungs and pose health risks including aggravated asthma symptoms, respiratory symptoms in healthy individuals, and other health problems. Children are more susceptible to air pollution than healthy adults because their respiratory systems are still developing and they have a faster breathing rate.

In New England more than 1.7 million children ride a bus to and from school everyday. Unfortunately, older school buses can pollute up to six times more than newer buses that use clean technology. In addition, it is not unusual for buses to idle for long periods of time, often right on school grounds where children gather. Statistics show that school buses are the safest way to transport children. Reducing pollution from school buses will help improve local air quality and reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust.

Related Information:
Diesel Exhaust
Air Enforcement