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EPA Issues Violation Notice to MBTA for Idling Violations at Four Bus Stations

Release Date: 07/08/2002
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has issued a Notice of Violation to the MBTA for excessive bus idling discovered during EPA inspections last February at four MBTA bus yards.

The inspections – at bus yards in Lynn, Medford, Roxbury and the Boston Medical Center area – found numerous instances where MBTA buses were idling in violation of the state’s five-minute limit. Many of the buses were found to be idling for more than an hour and, in one instance, at the Roxbury yard on Bartlett Street, a bus was seen idling for 2 hours.

“Given the high asthma rates in Boston, it’s unacceptable that diesel buses are left idling for more than an hour at a time, as we found in our MBTA inspections,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Excessive idling of diesel bus engines creates harmful pollution, especially for sensitive populations such as the young, elderly and asthmatics. By cutting down on idling, Boston-area residents, passengers and drivers will be breathing cleaner air.”

MBTA is working cooperatively with EPA to negotiate a resolution to the idling violations. In this regard, the MBTA last month sent out a Special Order to MBTA employees reminding them of anti-idling requirements. In addition, signs will be posted at all MBTA diesel bus facilities reminding the employees to shut down engines when they are not being used.

The inspections are part of a region-wide effort by EPA, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the City of Boston, to curb diesel air emissions, particularly in inner city neighborhoods where diesel air pollution and asthma rates are substantially higher than in other parts of Massachusetts.

Today’s announcement comes 2 months after EPA settled an enforcement case with Waste Management of Massachusetts Inc., with the company agreeing to provide ultra low sulfur diesel and new air filter traps for diesel school buses operated by the Boston public schools. Under the school bus project, beginning this fall, all 200 school buses at the city's Readville bus depot will be fueled with ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel and 150 of these will be fitted with special pollution control devices that reduce diesel emissions by 90 percent. One of the largest school bus retrofit efforts in the nation, the project will eliminate an estimated 33 tons of diesel particulate matter, 140 tons of smog-causing hydrocarbons and 907 tons of carbon monoxide air pollution each year.

EPA is also working aggressively with the six New England states to implement anti-idling programs, with a particular emphasis on school buses. In May, EPA New England and the New England Asthma Regional Council issued idling guidelines for school bus operators.

Diesel exhaust contains fine particles that can cause lung damage and aggravate respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis. In New England, diesel engines are the third largest human-made source of fine particles, contributing more than 20 percent of fine particle emissions. Children are more sensitive to air pollution because they breathe 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults. Recent studies have found a strong correlation between exposure to diesel exhaust and impaired lung growth in children.

State and federal authorities are stepping up their enforcement of the Massachusetts idling regulation to reduce pollution from diesel exhaust. The Massachusetts anti-idling regulation prohibits the unnecessary operation of the engine of a motor vehicle while the vehicle is stopped for a foreseeable period of time in excess of five minutes. There are three exceptions to the five-minute limit that can apply depending on the circumstances. The regulation is found at 310 Code of Massachusetts Regulations 7.11(1)(b).Click icon for EPA disclaimer. Penalties for violating this regulation can be as high as $27,500 per day per violation ($25,000 if the matter is being enforced by state authorities).

For more information on diesel exhaust and anti-idling guidelines, visit EPA’s web site at