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Clean School Bus USA Event at Pin Oak Middle School, Bellaire, Texas

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
Pin Oak Middle School
Bellaire, Texas

May 27, 2003

Thank you, Judge (Robert) Eckles, for that introduction. Thanks, also, to the students from Sylvan Rodriquez Elementary for signing The Wheels on the Bus for us. I used to sing that song with my children B who are now all grown B and someday I hope I = ll have some grandchildren to sing it with me. I also want to recognize the students who did the "dirty socks" experiment. Those socks look like some of the ones I used to find under my son= s bed when he was about your age.

Of course, today we = re not here to talk about the wheels on the bus, but rather the engine on the bus B and what we can do to make it cleaner, so the air we all breathe will be healthier. Last month, 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 B or two trips across Texas. 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 school bus here in Texas emits 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 B by replacing or retrofitting older, dirty buses with new, A clean @ buses that are six times cleaner than the old ones. These new buses use cleaner fuel or new technology to reduce their emissions into the air. 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 will leverage funds already budgeted for school bus replacement, giving districts more for their money B and I know that = s something school boards and taxpayers always appreciate.

In addition, we are pleased that as a result of various environmental enforcement actions we have taken, more than $20 million nationwide B with nearly $1 million of that here in Texas alone B will be available to help fund clean school bus efforts.

I should also mention that your Texas Adopt-A-School-Bus program nicely complements our Clean School Bus USA program. Adopt-A-School-Bus gives local businesses the opportunity to voluntarily provide money to help school districts replace and retrofit their school bus fleets with clean technologies. This innovative program B which is a model for the nation B is exactly what President Bush means when he talks about the government working as partners with the private sector to achieve shared goals.

As I mentioned earlier, another important step that can be taken to reduce school bus pollution is reducing unnecessary idling B and I = m pleased that here in Houston you have a strong policy against that. 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 for 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 our sponsors and the school districts in the Houston area. 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. I hope that before too long, these children will be able to add another verse to Wheels on the Bus that goes, A The engine on the bus is clean, clean, clean B all through the town." Thank you.