Environmental & Community Advocates Petition for Clean School Buses

New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
(212) 361-6350

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2018
Contact: Shachar Sharon, ssharon@nylcv.org

Environmental & Community Advocates Petition for Clean School Buses

NEW YORK, NY – New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF), parent and electric school bus advocate Tevin Grant, and US PIRG Transportation Program Director Matt Casale gathered today in Midtown Manhattan to deliver a petition to Governor Andrew Cuomo. They were joined by students and parents from New York City. The petition outlined their Clean Buses for Healthy Niños (CBHN) campaign, proposing a switch from diesel to electric school buses to protect children’s health.

The petition, signed by nearly 6,000 New Yorkers, called for using the state’s $127 million Volkswagen settlement to invest in electric school buses for environmental justice communities.

“Our children’s health and safety must always come first,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Switching to electric vehicles is imperative to secure improved air quality for our children. We thank all of our valued partners and members who took action by signing and sharing this petition. We look forward to working with community stakeholders to raise awareness of the urgent need for investment in electric school buses.”

In New York, more than 2 million children ride to school on diesel buses each day. Diesel exhaust poses risks to children’s health by emitting dangerous pollutants that may harm their developing lungs and lead to respiratory illnesses, such as asthma. Almost 200,000 children suffer from asthma in New York – a major portion of which come from low-income communities. Asthma is a leading cause of school absences – children with severe asthma can miss up to 30 days of school in NYC.

Poor air quality impacts low-income communities and communities of color at drastically higher rates. There are higher rates of hospitalization for respiratory disease among communities near large pollution sources. In some environmental justice communities, 1 in 4 children suffers from asthma, compared to 1 in 10 statewide. Missing school due to asthma-related illness can have negative academic consequences for students and economic impacts on parents who need to miss work to bring their children to the hospital.

Transitioning to electric school buses would improve air quality, bolster the fight against climate change, and protect the lungs of the millions of kids who ride buses every day. Focusing on environmental justice communities would bring academic, health, and economic benefits to underserved neighborhoods that have traditionally been overlooked.

Matt Casale, US PIRG Transportation Program Director, said, ”When we put our kids on a school bus, we try to ignore the fumes, because we rely on these buses for safe transportation. But we now know that whether they’re boarding the bus or on the bus, kids are being exposed to toxic air in high concentrations – and at the same time, diesel pollution contributes to global warming. We have the technology to avoid this, so why wouldn’t we?”

Tevin C. S. Grant, Esq., Founder of Electric School Bus Campaign, “School buses are an obvious vehicle for electrification because they travel short, predictable routes and have some of the dirtiest diesel engines whose emissions have larger impacts on the developing lungs and hearts of the children they carry. New York State should lead the demand for electric school buses because we have more than twice the number of school buses of any state except for Texas. The VW funds gives us an opportunity to lower the costs of electric school buses and spur demand for them.”

Elected officials expressed their support for the campaign.

“New York City needs electric school buses now,” said NYC Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm, a former NYC public school teacher. “Each school day, diesel-burning yellow buses release toxic fumes into the air we breathe. Thousands of NYC public school students spend many hours on these buses throughout the year. We must not allow our children to be exposed to potentially hazardous conditions every school day. The time for change is now. Therefore I am pleased to stand with the electric school bus campaign and the New York families who are petitioning to make our city healthier for future generations.”

“Our city’s yellow school fleet should be greener,” said NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal. “More than 2 million people in the New York metropolitan area have asthma, including nearly half a million children. From the age of 3 or 4 years old, our students are being transported on outdated, fume-emitting buses. But that doesn’t have to be the case. That is why I have made procurement of electric buses a central part of my agenda and I am proud to join the NYLCV and others to call on Governor Cuomo to expand electric buses.”

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) engages and educates New Yorkers on environmental issues and the environmental decision-making processes at the local, regional, state and federal government levels. NYLCVEF fosters open, nonpartisan discussion on environmental policy and empowers New Yorkers to be effective advocates on behalf of the environment. The New York League of Conservation Voters NYLCV is the only non-partisan, statewide environmental organization in New York that takes a pragmatic approach to fighting for clean water, healthy air, renewable energy, and open space. Follow NYLCV on Facebook and Twitter.