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School Bus Company to Implement Nationwide Anti-Idling Program and Pay Penalties for Clean Air Act Violations - Public Health Benefits as Nation Recognizes School Bus Safety Week

Release Date: 10/21/2009
Contact Information: Public Affairs -- 617-918-1010

(Boston, Mass. – October 21, 2009) – As part of a settlement for clean air violations, school bus operator First Student will commit to reduce idling from its nationwide fleet of 50,000 school buses.

The anti-idling measures are the result of an EPA enforcement action to address illegal idling at Connecticut and Rhode Island school bus lots. This nationwide effort will reduce school children’s exposure to diesel pollution and help clean the nation’s air. First Student, Inc. will also pay a fine of $128,000 and perform environmental projects valued at over $1 million.

“Pollution from diesel vehicles is a serious problem across the country. Children, especially those suffering from asthma or other respiratory ailments, are particularly vulnerable to diesel exhaust,” said Ira W. Leighton, acting regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “October is Children’s Health Month, so it is especially timely that our work will result in First Student’s aggressive measures to limit school bus idling and help protect the health of school children nationwide.”

First Student is one of the largest school bus companies in North America, transporting four million students in 40 states across the country. In 2008, an EPA inspector observed buses idling for lengthy periods of time at First Student school bus lots in both Conn. and R.I. Some buses were observed idling for up to two and a half hours prior to departing the lot to pick up school children.

“This settlement will help reduce excessive idling and advance key components of Connecticut’s Clean Diesel Plan,” said Amey Marrella, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. “Strong enforcement of anti-idling regulations, which is a focus of this settlement, reduces diesel emissions and is a DEP priority. Reduced idling improves public health, especially among sensitive groups like school-aged children and senior citizens, and contributes to the state’s climate change goals.”

Under the settlement, First Student will implement a national Training and Management Program to prevent excessive idling from its entire fleet of 50,000 school buses. Through this program, First Student will train its drivers to comply with state and local anti-idling regulations and to avoid excessive idling. First Student will require supervisors to monitor idling in school bus lots, post anti-idling signs in areas where drivers congregate, and notify the school districts it serves of its anti-idling policy.

"This settlement will help reduce our children's exposure to diesel pollutants by training school bus drivers to comply with anti-idling regulations that are intended to protect health and the environment and to conserve fuel," said W. Michael Sullivan, PhD., Director of the RI Department of Environmental Management. "Diesel exhaust from idling buses accumulates in and around school yards and poses health risks to children and teachers. Limiting the amount of idling time and retrofitting school buses to reduce the harmful effects of diesel pollution will help not only the children who ride them, but also their bus drivers, teachers, families, and communities, all of whom will benefit from cleaner air and reduced exposure to diesel exhaust."

In addition, First Student will outfit approximately 150 school buses in New England with EPA-verified crankcase filter and diesel oxidation catalyst systems. First Student also will install a GPS idling tracking system on approximately 400 buses. The crankcase filter and oxidation catalyst systems will reduce harmful particulate matter emissions from the engine between 20 and 30 percent and help reduce children’s exposure to this pollution. The GPS idling tracking system will help First Student management identify and address buses that idle excessively.

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.

Both Connecticut and Rhode Island have anti-idling regulations that are included in their “state implementation plans” designed to meet national air quality standards. Regulations in the state implementation plan are enforceable by the state and by EPA. The anti-idling regulation in Connecticut limits idling time to three minutes. In Rhode Island, the limit is five minutes.

Idling school buses consume about one-half gallon of fuel per hour. By reducing the idling time of each bus in its fleet by one hour per day, First Student would reduce its fuel use by 4.5 million gallons per year and avoid emitting roughly 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

EPA has worked aggressively with the six New England states to implement and enforce anti-idling programs. EPA’s inspections of transportation facilities are part of a region-wide effort to curb diesel air emissions. EPA’s New England office has previously brought and resolved 11 separate enforcement actions for penalties against nine different companies, for violations of state anti-idling regulations.

The following states have anti-idling regulations:

California; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Hawaii; Maine; Massachusetts; Maryland; Minnesota; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; Ohio; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia;

The following localities have anti-idling regulations:

Maricopa County, Arizona; Denver and Aspen, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; several counties in Illinois; several counties in Minnesota; several counties in Missouri; Chattanooga, Tennessee; several counties in Texas; and the District of Columbia;

More information:

Diesel exhaust and anti-idling guidelines (www.epa.gov/ne/eco/diesel)

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