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EPA Administrator Whitman Visits Portland School to Tout ‘Clean' School Buses

Release Date: 04/17/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

PORTLAND, ME - EPA Administrator Christie Whitman visited a Portland elementary school today to promote a new national partnership to minimize pollution from school buses and to recognize the Portland public school system for its leadership in these efforts.

"The Portland Public School System deserves kudos for its great work in curbing air pollution from its school buses," Whitman said, during a visit this morning to the Howard C. Reiche Elementary School. "From tough anti-idling rules to aggressive purchasing of new, cleaner buses, Portland is setting the bar in providing safe and healthy transportation for the thousands of students who ride buses to and from school every day."

Whitman's visit comes on the heels of announcing a new national initiative, Clean School Bus USA, designed to limit children's exposure to the harmful effects of diesel exhaust by reducing pollution from diesel school buses. Key elements of the program are reducing school bus idling, retrofitting existing buses with devices that reduce air pollution and replacing older buses with new, cleaner ones.

The Portland School System has been moving aggressively in recent years to reduce pollution from its fleet of 32 diesel school buses. In the late 1990s, the school bus fleet was one of the oldest in the state. Now, nearly all of the buses are 1998 model year or newer. The school district has also established a firm anti-idling policy for school bus drivers that is strictly enforced. The school district is currently seeking funds to further reduce pollution by retrofitting the fleet with pollution controls and using, cleaner ultra low-sulfur fuel.

"We want to be on the leading edge when it comes to protecting our students and citizens from harmful pollutants," said Kevin Mallory, the school district's director of transportation, who is spearheading the push to cleaner buses. "School buses should provide the safest form of student transportation, as well as the healthiest."

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection collaborated with the Maine Department of Education last year in sending letters to all of the state's school superintendents encouraging them to adopt anti-idling policies. As part of the outreach campaign, DEP developed innovative materials for school bus drivers, including a sun visor with anti-idling tips, an anti-idling pledge card for school bus drivers, and "Doing My Share for Clean Air" anti-idling magnets.