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EPA Applauds Bethlehem, New York for Efforts to Clean Up 57 School Buses; Eleven Capital Area Schools Districts to Retrofit Total of 347 Buses

Release Date: 02/03/2004
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(#04016) New York, N.Y. -- Today U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny praised the Bethlehem, New York Central School District for its outstanding efforts to reduce tailpipe emissions from 57 of its diesel school buses – a move that will improve the environment and the health of its 5,700 students. On hand with Ms. Kenny were:
    • New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President PeterR. Smith Exit EPA disclaimer
    • Bethlehem Town Supervisor Theresa Egan Exit EPA disclaimer
    • Bethlehem Central School District Transportation Supervisor Alfred Karam
    • New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) Executive Director Peter Mannella
They celebrated the work of this and ten other Capital region school districts, whose voluntary efforts will reduce air pollution from 347 school buses. All of the school districts doing the work, including Bethlehem, received funding from NYSERDA for the projects.

Peter Mannella, Executive Director for the New York Association for Pupil Transportation; Peter Iwanowicz, Director of Environmental Health for the American Lung Assocition of New York State; Peter Smith, President of the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority; Jane Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator; Theresa Egan, Bethlehem Town Supervisor; and Alfred Karam, Bethlehem Central School District Transportation Supervisor.Ms. Kenny also announced that EPA is seeking an unprecedented $65 million in funding for 2005 to expand the Agency’s Clean School Bus USA program, a national partnership to reduce the emissions of air pollutants from school buses. Last year, EPA distributed $5 million for clean bus programs in school districts nationwide. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt announced the requested increase from $5 million to $65 million on Friday.

“This extraordinary collaboration in the Capital region of federal, state and local governments will mean a healthier ride and cleaner air for thousands of school children,” said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. “We know that school buses are the safest way to get kids to school. By voluntarily reducing tailpipe pollution, school administrators like those in Bethlehem are setting the pace to make school buses everywhere better for children’s lungs and the environment.”

“The Clean Air School Bus Program represents a commitment from Governor Pataki that all students across our state will receive healthy and safe transportation to and from school,” said Peter R. Smith, President of NYSERDA. “New York has more school buses on the road than any other state, and it is critical that we dramatically reduce eliminate school bus emissions to ensure our students ride to school in a healthy environment. I applaud the Bethlehem School District for their commitment to both the environment, and their student population of that as well.”

“We recognize that student safety and bus safety are our number one priority, and that clean fuels coupled with emission-reducing technologies and limited idling play an important part in achieving safety,” said Alfred Karam, Transportation Supervisor for the Bethlehem Central School District.

Peter Mannella, NYAPT Executive Director, noted that "the work that is being done here in Bethlehem shows that we can make a difference in the lives of our children and our schools. We've made great progress here and elsewhere in the state in recent years; that progress is accelerating with renewed state and federal attention...and that can only spell good news for our children and for school transportation."

In July 2003, the New York Association for Pupil Transportation signed a groundbreaking agreement with EPA to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants from thousands of diesel school buses throughout the state. NYAPT was the nation's first state-wide consortium to agree to make these changes under EPA's Clean School Bus USA program.

The Bethlehem Central School District, a NYAPT member, was one of the first districts since the agreement was signed to put a contract in place to install pollution-reducing oxidation catalysts on its buses. Work is scheduled to begin in mid-March. Ten other Capital region school districts – Shenendahoah, North Colonie, South Colonie, Ballston Spa, Niskayuna, Guilderland, Greenville, Scotia-Glenville, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, and Schuylerville -- also plan to install pollution-limiting equipment on hundreds of school buses in the near future. Each of these districts received funds from NYSERDA, which last year distributed $5 million to public school districts throughout New York to help them purchase the retrofits.

Most school buses and trucks are powered by large diesel engines that lack the sophisticated pollution controls now required on automobiles, such as catalytic converters. Diesel engines release a significant amount of fine particles, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide into the environment. These emissions not only harm the quality of our air, but can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory ailments, particularly in children.

To address these emissions, EPA has adopted 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% cleaner than those of most buses on the road today. But because most diesel trucks and buses remain in use for decades, EPA is encouraging owners of trucks and bus fleets to retrofit their pre-2004 vehicles with pollution controls.

Emissions from diesel school buses can be reduced in two ways: through the installation of one of two kinds of retrofit equipment, and/or through the use of lower-polluting ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. Oxidation catalyst retrofits, which will be installed in the Bethlehem buses, reduce up to 30 percent of the fine particles, up to 50 percent of the hydrocarbons and up to 40 percent of the carbon monoxide emitted by diesel engines. They do not require the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. Diesel particulate matter filters reduce 60 to 90 percent of fine particles, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, and require the use of ultra-low sulfur fuel. Used alone, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel reduces fine particles in diesel tailpipe emissions by up to nine percent.

EPA launched its Clean School Bus USA program in April, 2003, with the goal of upgrading the nation's entire school bus fleet to low emission buses by 2010. By developing partnerships with schools, trade groups, private companies and state and local governments, EPA is working to ensure that school buses -- which are the safest way for kids to get to school -- also are the cleanest. The success of the collaboration between EPA, NYSERDA, NYAPT, Bethlehem and other Capital region school districts promises rapid change nationwide.