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Clean School Bus USA Initiative, Annandale, Virginia

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
Annandale Terrace Elementary School
Annandale, Virginia

June 4, 2003

Thank you, Congressman (Tom) Davis, for that introduction. It's great to be here at the home of the Cougars.

Earlier this spring, I announced a new program to protect the quality of the air by using new technology to make the exhaust from school buses much cleaner and by eliminating unnecessary idling. This program is called the Clean School Bus USA initiative.

Every day in America, 24 million children travel safely to and from school on 440,000 school buses. Those buses travel more than four billion miles each year. As those of you who've studied the solar system know, that's about the equivalent of four round-trips to the planet Jupiter.

That's a lot of driving B and it's also a lot of air pollution B millions of pounds of soot and smog-forming gases emitted each year. In fact, I've seen one estimate that suggests that one older school bus can emit as much soot in one year as 114 cars. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to significantly reduce pollution from school buses and better protect the health of all those who ride them.

Since school buses are the safest way to transport kids to school, we also want to make them the healthiest way to get to school. By replacing or retrofitting older, dirty buses with new, Aclean" buses that are up to six times cleaner than the old ones, we can accomplish exactly that. This means cleaner air in our communities and healthier students in our schools.

Of course, replacing older buses with clean buses and clean technology isn't easy and it isn't cheap. That's why EPA, in partnership with numerous organizations from the environmental, health, and business communities B along with many state and local officials B launched our Clean School Bus USA initiative.

Our goal is simple B to ensure that by the year 2010, every public school bus on the road, in all 50 states, is a clean school bus, emitting less pollution and contributing to cleaner air. We are funding this program with a $5 million appropriation that we will make available to local school districts nationwide to help defray the costs of upgrading their school bus fleets.

Because we're using a cost-sharing program, our Clean School Bus USA program can leverage funds already available for school bus replacement, giving districts more for their money B and I know that = s something school boards and taxpayers always appreciate.

Additionally, $2 million from a recently announced settlement action EPA reached with Virginia Electric Power Co. is expected to be available to communities here in Virginia to upgrade school bus fleets. As much as $1 million of that will be used right here in Fairfax County. This district maintains one of the largest school bus fleets in the country. What you do here can have an impact all over the country.

That's why I'm so pleased you have implemented a firm policy against unnecessary idling of school buses. There's no reason to let buses sit in the parking lot running when they = re not in use. That just pollutes the air and wastes fuel. That's why we've also set the goal of reducing school bus idling by an average of 30 minutes per bus per day by the year 2005. That will not only reduce a lot of pollution, it will save 17 million gallons of diesel fuel a year. Working together B using all the tools available to us B can really make a difference for the environment and, more important, for the students who ride these buses B our children.

Cleaner buses and cleaner air mean fewer respiratory ailments, fewer school days lost to illness, and a brighter, healthier future. I want to applaud all those who are supporting this important effort, especially right here in Fairfax County. By following your good example, we can make sure every public schoolchild in America is riding a clean school bus before most of the children here today graduate from high school. Thank you.