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Three Conn. Towns Receive Over $530K in EPA Grants for Clean School Buses; Northeast Diesel Collaborative announces $1.4 million for new Clean Diesel Projects

Release Date: 03/10/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Fairfield, Conn. – Mar. 10, 2006) – EPA is awarding grants totaling more than $530,000 to install advanced pollution control equipment on approximately 70 school buses operating in Fairfield, Lyme and Old Lyme, Conn.

In a related action, to advance the goals of the Northeast Diesel Collaborative, EPA today announced that it 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 the Northeast states to improve air quality by taking action to reduce diesel pollution.

Through “Clean School Bus USA” grants, EPA is awarding a total of $536,817 in Connecticut, with the Town of Fairfield School District receiving $369,000, and the Regional School District No. 18, which serves the communities of Lyme and Old Lyme, receiving $167,817.

The grants to the Conn. school districts are two of seven being awarded within 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 Connecticut’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.”

Earlier this year, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection issued a bold new plan for reducing diesel emissions statewide. This plan outlines a comprehensive menu of strategies designed to reduce fine particle emissions across the state. Today’s grants will help the communities of Fairfield, Lyme and Old Lyme add diesel particulate matter filters to most of the school buses serving these communities, and to fuel all of them with cleaner ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. The combination of a diesel particulate matter filter and cleaner diesel fuel will reduce per bus emissions by more than 90 percent, providing students in each district with a cleaner ride to school. These efforts and others will assist in achieving reduction targets outlined by the Conn. General Assembly.

“EPA’s program aimed at reducing diesel emissions from school buses plays a critical role in improving air quality in the State of Connecticut,” said DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy. “The commitment made here today by these two school districts demonstrates a serious dedication to improving not only the health of their children but also the overall health of the state.”

In Conn., both Fairfield and New Haven Counties are not currently in attainment of EPA’s health-based standard for fine particles. The particles in diesel exhaust pose health risks, including aggravated asthma and other respiratory symptoms. 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 Connecticut, lifetime asthma rates in children are estimated to be 13 percent.

In the Town of Fairfield, grant and matching funds will be used to retrofit approximately 50 buses with diesel particulate matter filters and fuel the entire fleet with ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. A portion of the grant will provide for the purchase of a cleaning station to allow regular onsite cleaning and maintenance of the filters.

First Selectman Kenneth A. Flatto said, "I am thrilled Fairfield was selected for this innovative important program to improve air quality for our children, our schools and our community. Fairfield is determined to remain at the forefront of efforts to improve the environment."

Regional School District No. 18 plans to use its grant and matching funds to retrofit their entire fleet of 20 buses with a combination of diesel oxidation catalysts and diesel particulate matter filters and fuel with ultra low sulfur diesel.

David J. Klein, the Superintendent of RSD 18 remarked, “We are very appreciative of the EPA Clean School Bus Grant Program and proud that our grant application was worthy of selection. The fuel conversion to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel and the particulate matter filtering equipment upgrades will greatly enhance safety for our students using bus transportation and members of our community. Further, as educators, this grant award will allow us to demonstrate to our students that we are environmentally aware and responsible and genuinely committed to their safety and that of our Lyme-Old Lyme community.”

These grants are among the first 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 also announced that it will offer up to $1.4 million in grants under this new regional partnership, and 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.”

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.

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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