On June 22, 2006, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a Congressional briefing on the impact of school bus emissions on children’s health and the need for funding to aid the clean up of these buses. The briefing focused on 1) the health impacts of exposure to diesel emissions and a report on the status of school bus fleet clean up nationwide; 2) technology and fuel options available to mitigate the danger posed by older diesel vehicles; and 3) policy options to help fleets accelerate this clean up.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), authorized $200 million per year for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) to reduce emissions in school buses, freight, construction and the ports sector through retrofits, replacements, engine rebuilds, repowerings, and idle reduction programs. This program enjoyed strong bipartisan support led by Senators Voinovich (R-OH), Clinton (D-NY), Isakson (R-GA) and Carper (D-DE). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated this program will lead to a reduction of about 70,000 tons of particulate matter (PM) with a 13 to 1 benefit-cost ratio. The Administration requested $49.5 million for fiscal year 2007 to fund this clean diesel initiative through EPA. The House version of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R.5386) funded this program at $28 million, a $21.5 million cut from the Administration request ($49.5 million) and $172 million less than EPAct’s authorization. Briefing speakers included:
Brian Mormino, Majority Staff Director, Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Nuclear Safety, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
L. Bruce Hill, Senior Scientist, Clean Air Task Force
Pat Quinn, Principal of the Accord Group, on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists
Timothy Regan, Senior Vice President, Corning Incorporated
Gabe Rozsa, representing National School Transportation Association
Dan Utech, Legislative Assistant, Senator Hilary Clinton (D-NY)
Every day, more than half a million school buses, mostly powered by diesel, transport approximately 24 million children in the U.S. Diesel exhaust contains a number of harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that form smog, air toxics and fine particulate matter (PM). Exposure to diesel exhaust is associated with a number of chronic and acute health effects, and recent studies show that pollution can concentrate inside school buses, leading to even greater exposures. Children are especially vulnerable because they inhale more air per kilogram of body weight, breathe more quickly than adults, and have less developed immune systems. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 30 percent of the school bus fleet is more than a decade old and 1 in 12 buses do not meet air quality standards for soot. The U.S. EPA’s Clean School Bus USA Program which funds the clean up of school buses has been overwhelmed with requests for support from schools. In 2005, EPA received more than 170 applications requesting nearly $50 million in funds. The program’s small budget ($7.5 million) was able to fund only 37 projects.