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Administrator Johnson, Clean School Bus USA Grant Event, Tucson, AZ

02/20/2006
    Thank you for that introduction. Last weekend I had to shovel about a foot of snow off my driveway in Maryland, so you can believe me when I say it’s a pleasure to be here in beautiful, sunny, and most importantly warm Tucson, Arizona.

    I would especially like to thank the school children from ­­­the Carrillo Intermediate Magnet School for being with us. I know a press conference might not be as exciting as their science classes, my favorite subject in school, but today’s grant announcement is helping to ensure that the air they breathe is cleaner and healthier.

    Every school day, around 480,000 school buses safely transport our nation’s 25 million school children to and from school, sporting events and school functions.

    Those buses travel more than four billion miles each year. For all of you future astronomers our there, that equals 8,000 trips to the moon and back. That’s a lot of driving, and unfortunately, a lot of air pollutants too.

    President Bush and EPA are committed to making that black puff of diesel smoke from school buses something you only read about in history books.

    These children are too young to remember the days when air pollution was so thick that in some cities people had to change their shirts twice a day. But times have changed, and today, with the help of our state and local partners, our nation’s air is the cleanest it has been in over a generation.

    Over the past five years, EPA and the Bush Administration have built on that progress by reducing pollution across the country and improving the air quality for all of our residents.

    By bringing breakthroughs in innovation to our nation’s future leaders, President Bush and EPA believe clean school buses are the next step in our steady march toward cleaner air and healthier lives.

    Each year, America’s school buses emit up to 50,000 pounds of air emissions that cause soot and smog, and induce asthma episodes. Adding to that total are the older buses that pollute as much as six times more than newer buses.

    Breathing diesel exhaust is not good for anyone, especially for children with asthma – the cause of 14 million missed school days each year.

    That’s why two years ago, EPA launched Clean School Bus USA to take school buses out of the air pollution equation.

    In school, we all learned the three “R’s” … reading, writing and arithmetic. The goals of Clean School Bus USA are also three “R’s” … reducing, retrofitting and replacing.

    The first “R” refers to reducing the unnecessary school bus idling.

    Letting a bus run for a long time in a parking lot not only wastes money and fuel, it pollutes our air and harms our health.

    Fortunately, it's easy to implement practices that reduce idling. Here in Tuscon, your buses are equipped with white roofs, tinted windows and separate air conditioning units to keep your buses cool without the need for unnecessary idling.

    The second “R” is retrofitting the current school bus fleet with advanced emissions controls.

    While EPA is requiring new diesel engines to meet tougher emissions standards, buses already on the road can be in operation for the next 20 or 30 years – well after these school children have graduated.

    The good news is that today’s buses can be equipped with the latest technologies to reduce pollution by 90 percent or more. EPA’s Clean School USA is helping school districts across the country upgrade their school bus fleets with clean technologies and fuels in order to protect today’s school children.

    Finally, the third “R”, and the reason why we are here today, refers to replacing the oldest, most polluting buses with new ones that meet EPA’s stringent pollution control measures.

    Today, I am pleased to announce that EPA is awarding $7.5 million to 37 cities nationwide to help communities meet the goals of the three “R’s”.

    These grants will leverage an additional $13 million in matching funds and services. As a result, more than 500 tons of diesel particulate matter emissions will be reduced from 4,000 school buses nationwide – that equals a lot less soot and smog in our air.

    I am pleased to announce Tucson's school buses will be running cleaner too. I am here today to present the Tucson Unified School District with a grant of nearly $500,000 to help purchase 61 cleaner, compressed natural gas buses.

    Compared to older buses, new natural gas buses can reduce emissions of particulate matter by over 75 percent.

    As one of the first school districts in the country to upgrade to compressed natural gas buses, the Tucson Unified School District has been a leader in this national effort.

    This grant, which leverages over $6.5 million in matching funds, will not only enhance the air quality and health of your 60,000 Tucson students, it will improve the air quality of the entire Tucson community.

    Today’s grant means that the only thing pouring out of school buses will be students - not diesel emissions.

    So, it is with great pleasure that I present EPA’s Clean School Bus grant to Roger Pfeuffer, Superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District.