Environmental Defense Fund Commends NYC Council for Passing Bill to Cut Toxic Emissions from Public School Buses

September 17, 2009


John Bianchi, 212-576-2700, ext 228, jbianchi@goodmanmedia.com

(New York – September 17, 2009) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the New York City Council today for passing landmark legislation that will dramatically reduce toxic engine emissions from public school buses.

The new law was shaped in part by a groundbreaking report EDF issued last year, A Healthier Ride to School: Cleaning up New York City’s Dirty Diesel School Buses, which showed the air quality of New York City public school bus cabins to be as much as five times worse than outside air. The new law will require that all public school buses in current service undergo engine emission retrofits and that older school buses be retired three years earlier than currently required, at 16 years old instead of 19 years old. Retired buses will be replaced with brand-new vehicles meeting the highest emission standards possible.

“New York City’s school children are getting a back-to-school gift with today’s City Council vote,” says Isabelle Silverman, attorney for Environmental Defense Fund, who coauthored the EDF report. “Our children will enjoy a healthier ride to school and all New Yorkers will breathe a little bit easier.”

A Healthier Ride to School also laid out a set of recommendations for the New York City Department of Education to maximize clean air benefits, minimize costs, and utilize newly available diesel retrofit technologies.

New York City uses more than 7,000 public school buses to transport approximately 138,000 schoolchildren every day. Although the buses represent a safe and effective way of ferrying children to their schools, young riders are at particular risk from harmful, polluted air both inside and outside of their vehicles. The EDF study found that diesel-powered buses emit more than 40 toxic substances, soot, unburned hydrocarbons and other harmful byproducts, many of which are known carcinogens.

Once the mayor signs the bill into law, it will improve bus cabin air quality with the help of engine emission retrofits—also known as crankcase ventilation systems—and go beyond a previous local law (LL42-2005) that required retrofits, but excluded buses used for transporting children in special education programs. The retrofits are considered of extreme importance. Since engines typically are right next to the bus doors, engine pollution enters the vehicle cabin each time the door opens, trapping children in a closed area filled with toxic pollution.

In addition, the dirtiest vehicles will be sent into retirement in favor of new buses meeting the highest emission standards. Accelerated bus turnover will ensure cleaner air because federal engine emission standards have improved dramatically over the last decade.

“This bill ensures that the city will replace its old, dirty public school buses sooner with brand-new buses that are 10 to 60 times cleaner, depending upon the model year they replace,” concludes Silverman. “Our children deserve nothing less than the cleanest air we can provide as they ride on their way to school.”

The executive summary and full report of A Healthier Ride to School can be found online at the EDF website: http://www.cleanbuses.org.