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Maine School District Receives $69,000 EPA Grant for Clean School Buses; Northeast Diesel Collaborative announces $1.4 million for new Clean Diesel Projects

Release Date: 03/08/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Mar. 8, 2006) – EPA’s New England regional office is awarding a grant of $69,000 to install pollution control equipment on approximately 50 school buses operating in twelve towns in southern and central Maine.

In a related action, to advance the goals of the Northeast Diesel Collaborative, EPA will be awarding nearly $1.4 million in new funds for clean diesel projects in the eight Northeast states this coming year. The Northeast Diesel Collaborative is a partnership of public and private organizations working in Northeastern states to improve air quality by taking action to reduce diesel pollution.

The $69,000 Maine grant is one of seven “Clean School Bus USA” grants to the Northeast states this year, totaling $1.2 million. Grant recipients are contributing an additional $2.1 million in matching funds and in-kind services. Last year, Congress appropriated $7.5 million for EPA’s Clean School Bus USA Program, which was launched in 2003 to help reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust. Since its inception, the program has funded 74 clean school bus projects nationally.

“Fleet by fleet, we are eliminating the black puff of diesel smoke that Maine’s children are exposed to,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “By cleaning up school buses, we are making a safe and reliable service even better for our children’s health.”

Diesel exhaust particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and pose serious health risks, including aggravating the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory problems in healthy individuals. New England has some of the highest asthma rates in the nation, and diesel engines are significant contributors to air pollution, especially in urban areas. Children are more susceptible to air pollution than healthy adults because their respiratory systems are still developing and they have a faster breathing rate. In Maine, lifetime asthma rates in children are estimated to be 13.2 percent.

“The DEP’s goal is for all Maine school children to have a healthier school bus ride,” stated acting Deputy Commissioner Deborah Garrett of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “To date the DEP has retrofitted over four hundred school buses with pollution control equipment.”

The Maine School Administrative District #57 will equip approximately 50 buses with diesel oxidation catalysts and crankcase filters, reducing emissions from each bus between 20 - 30 percent. In addition, the district will contribute to the grant by purchasing 4 new school buses for the district. The retrofitted buses will operate in Waterboro, Alfred, Limerick, Lyman, Newfield, Shapleigh, Eliot, South Berwick, China, Vassalboro, Winslow, and Whitefield.

"MSAD 57 buses cover 5,000 miles a day to deliver 3,600 students safely to school," said Lynda Green, Superintendent of MSAD 57. "This effort to provide cleaner air benefits our children, and generations to come."

”Maine has the highest rate of childhood asthma in the country,” said Laurie Stillman, Executive Director of the New England Asthma Regional Council. “The good news is that Maine is ahead of the pack cleaning up its school buses. They are a model for New England.”

Maine has already taken a number of steps to reduce pollution from its school buses and near schools, including a robust statewide anti-idling initiative to reduce student exposure to diesel exhaust from school buses. In addition, the Maine DEP has worked with school districts statewide to distribute and post “Clean Air Zone” signs in school yards to remind all motorists to turn off their engines. EPA’s latest funding builds on a 2003 grant to Maine’s Dept. of Environmental Protection, resulting in the retrofit of more than 400 buses at 28 school districts statewide.

School buses provide a vital service, safely transporting 1.7 million children in New England to and from school every day. Cleaner school buses help not only the children who ride them, but also their bus drivers, teachers, families, and communities, who all benefit from cleaner air and reduced exposure to diesel exhaust.

EPA is also announcing $1.4 million in grants to be awarded as a part of a growing partnership known as the Northeast Diesel Collaborative, which combines the expertise of public and private partners in a coordinated regional initiative to significantly reduce diesel emissions and improve public health in the eight northeastern states. EPA will be issuing a request for proposals from state and local governments, environmental organizations, and others interested in establishing innovative projects to reduce diesel emissions in their communities. Projects can involve cleaner fuels, idle reduction, and retrofit technology for a range of diesel engines, including school buses.

“The state and private partners in the Northeast Diesel Collaborative are grateful for EPA’s leadership and for the generous funding to launch the initiative,” said Debbi Edelstein, manager of the Northeast Diesel Collaborative. “With a concerted public-private effort, we can clean up pollution from the older fleet of diesel-powered vehicles.”

More information on clean school buses: http://www.epa.gov/ne/eco/diesel/school_buses.html

More information on the Northeast Diesel Collaborative: http://www.northeastdiesel.org

Photos from press event: http://www.epa.gov/region01/eventphotos.html#schoolbuses

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