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EPA Praises Maine’s Efforts to Curb School Bus Pollution

Release Date: 03/28/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Sheryl Rosner - 617-918-1865 rosner.sheryl@epa.gov

Dave Deegan - 617-918-1017
deegan.dave@epa.gov

For Immediate Release: March 28, 2005; Release #srdd050301

Flanked by dozens of students at a Westbrook elementary school, EPA Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney today recognized Maine’s efforts to reduce soot emissions from hundreds of diesel school buses across the state, including over a dozen in the Westbrook School District.

Using a grant from EPA’s “Clean School Bus USA” program, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is spearheading a program that will result in 300 school buses being retrofitted with pollution control equipment to reduce emissions of particulate matter (soot), carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. DEP is working with 26 school districts on the project, making it the first statewide program of its kind in the country. Already, 14 school districts have completed bus retrofits. Maine is also implementing a robust program to eliminate school bus idling.

"The cleaner school buses operating in communities across the state of Maine including the City of Westbrook, are helping address asthma and other respiratory-related problems – making the black puff of smoke that comes from diesel engines a thing of the past," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "I am pleased to announce that so many school districts in Maine are providing students with a cleaner, healthier ride.”

Maine was one of 17 demonstration projects selected nationwide in 2003 for $5 million in funding authorized by Congress. Maine received a $567,376 grant from EPA to implement a statewide clean school bus project. Launched in April 2003, the goal of the Clean School Bus USA program to ensure that by the year 2010, every school bus on the road in all 50 states is a clean school bus, emitting less pollution and contributing to cleaner air.

This year, EPA has $7.5 million for another national clean school bus grant competition, which will greatly enhance the ability of Clean School Bus USA partners to bring cleaner school buses to even more communities across the nation.

Maine DEP is helping 26 school districts in both urban and rural areas across the state acquire diesel oxidation catalysts to retrofit 300 school buses. These catalysts will reduce pollution by at least 20 percent from each bus. Maine has also committed to buy 180 new school buses which will be equipped with pollution control technology.

In 2002, Maine launched a “Doing My Share for Clean Air” campaign to promote improved technology and practices to reduce student exposure to diesel school bus exhaust. As part of the campaign, DEP has collaborated with the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Association for Pupil Transportation to reduce school bus idling statewide by developing comprehensive outreach materials for school officials, transportation directors, bus drivers and parents. In addition, the DEP has created anti-idling signs for schools. The signs identify areas as "Clean Air Zones" and instruct everyone (school bus drivers as well as parents) to turn off their engines.

Exposure to diesel exhaust can pose health risks, including triggering asthma symptoms and other respiratory ailments. Asthma is the most common long-term childhood disease, affecting 6.3 million children nationwide. 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. Maine has some of the highest asthma rates in New England, with lifetime asthma rates in children estimated to be 13.2 percent.

Children are especially sensitive to air pollution because their lungs are still developing and they breathe at a faster rate. Lower emissions of diesel exhaust benefit not only America’s school-aged children, but teachers, parents and all members of the community.

EPA’s Clean School Bus USA program is encouraging school districts to reduce school bus idling, retrofit existing buses with pollution controls and replace the oldest school buses with new ones. For more information about EPA’s efforts to reduce pollution from school buses in New England, visit . For more information about EPA’s Clean School Bus USA program, visit www.epa.gov/ne/eco/diesel. For more information about EPA’s Clean School Bus USA program, visit www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus.

The Maine public school districts that are participating in the Clean School Bus USA program are:

      Brunswick School Department
      Union #42, Readfield and Monmouth
      MSAD #1, Presque Isle, Limestone, and Bridgewater
      River Valley School District, MSAD #52, Turner
      Wiscasset School District
      MSAD #6, Standish
      MSAD #9, Farmington
      MSAD #27, Fort Kent
      MSAD #47, Oakland and Waterville
      Oxford Hills School District
      Gorham School Department
      Westbrook School Department
      MSAD #77, East Machias
      Freeport School District
      Medway School District
      Portland Public Schools
      South Portland Public Schools
      Caribou School District
      MSAD #41, Milo School District
      MSAD #43, Mexico
      Ellsworth School District
      Falmouth School District

Related Information:
Diesel Exhaust
Clean School Bus USA
Air Enforcement
Asthma