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Walpole, Mass. School Bus Company Reduces Diesel Idling under Settlement

Release Date: 05/27/2014
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Michael J. Connolly and Sons, a Walpole, Mass. company that operates 300 school buses and provides student transportation services in fifteen Massachusetts communities, will implement idling reduction measures resulting in cleaner air in local communities, in addition to paying a penalty of $33,000 to settle EPA allegations that it violated federally-enforceable motor vehicle idling limits in Massachusetts.

Under the settlement, the company will implement a suite of idling reduction measures including training all drivers, posting anti-idling signs, performing periodic “walk-throughs” of school bus lots to ensure that no excessive idling occurs, and notifying all school districts of Connolly’s policy against excessive idling. The company has responded quickly and already has implemented a number of these idle reduction measures. In addition, Connolly has a new bus fleet and a standard practice of replacing old buses with new buses every three years. Further, they have committed to physically disconnect the “override” capability of the automatic shutoff mechanism on each school bus in its fleet, so that the automatic shutoff mechanism operates without interruption.

In Dec. 2013 and Jan. 2014, EPA observed Connolly school buses idling for extended periods of time in company bus lots in the Mass. communities of Mansfield, Sharon, Walpole and Natick.

EPA alleged that the company’s excessive idling was in violation of federally-enforceable motor vehicle idling limits contained in the Massachusetts air quality state implementation plan. The applicable regulations establish requirements for all motor vehicles operating in the state, and, with very few exceptions, limit idling to no more than five minutes.

“Diesel exhaust is a serious health concern for children, both here in Massachusetts and across the country. Reducing idling helps protect children’s health,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Taking easy and common-sense steps to avoid excessive idling helps to save fuel and money, and reduces unnecessary air pollution including greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.”

Children, especially those suffering from asthma or other respiratory ailments, are particularly vulnerable to diesel exhaust. Idling diesel engines emit pollutants which can cause or aggravate a variety of health problems including asthma and other respiratory diseases, and the fine particles in diesel exhaust are a likely human carcinogen. Diesel exhaust not only contributes to area-wide air quality problems, but more direct exposure can cause lightheadedness, nausea, sore throat, coughing, and other symptoms. Drivers, school children riding on the buses, facility workers, neighbors and bystanders are all vulnerable.

Idling school buses consume about one-half gallon of diesel fuel per hour. For example, if a bus company had a fleet of 1000 buses, and was able to reduce idling time for the fleet by one hour per day, the company would reduce its fuel use by 90,000 gallons per year, and avoid emitting more than 2.1 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Alternatives to idling include technologies such as engine pre-heaters, and practices such as keeping drivers and passengers comfortable inside buildings until buses are ready to briefly warm up and depart.

The Connolly settlement is the latest in a series of EPA enforcement actions designed to minimize excessive idling among school buses in New England. Since 2009, EPA New England has brought actions against six school bus operators, leading to substantial reductions both in idling and in the resultant harmful emissions.

More information on EPA Clean Diesel efforts: (http://www.epa.gov/otaq/diesel/index.htm)

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