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EPA Administrator Whitman Launches National Partnership at Wissahickon High School to Reduce School Bus Pollution - Wissahickon Schools Receives $250,000 to Retrofit Diesel-powered School Buses

Release Date: 4/7/2003
Contact Information: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

PHILADELPHIA – Today EPA Administrator Christie Whitman visited Wissahickon High School in Montgomery County, Pa., to launch Clean School Bus USA, a national partnership to reduce school bus pollution.

The new initiative will result in significant health improvements by encouraging the elimination of unnecessary school bus idling, installation of effective emission control systems in new buses and replacement of the oldest buses in the fleet with newer ones.

The Wissahickon School District is benefitting from a partnership involving EPA, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the 3M Corp. A grant of $250,000 – $200,000 was donated by 3M Corp. and $50,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – will retrofit 45 buses – two-thirds of the district’s fleet – with emission control devices, which will reduce the emission of toxic chemicals and tiny particles from the diesel exhaust.

The grant will also subsidize the higher cost per gallon of using ultra-low sulphur fuel for the next five years. The fuel, which costs about 19 cents more per gallon, has been used in all the district’s vehicles since August, 2002. When the low sulphur fuel is used in combination with emission-control devices, an even greater reduction in particulates is achieved.

"President Bush and I stand firmly behind our commitment to protect the health of our nation's children. Working with our partners as part of the Clean School Bus USA program, we are poised to meet the challenge to make the bus ride to school cleaner for 24 million children,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “This partnership will play a vital role in helping us upgrade our nation's school bus fleet.”

To financially support this effort of making school buses cleaner, Congress included $5 million in EPA's budget this year for a cost-shared grant program designed to assist school districts in upgrading their bus fleets.

The Wissahickon School District is using the grant to install oxidation catalysts and diesel particulate filters on 45 vehicles. These emission controls will reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons and particulate matter contained in diesel exhaust, which contribute to acid rain, ground-level ozone and reduced visibility. It also will reduce the health risk from exposure to diesel exhaust, particularly in children, who breathe 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than do adults.

Two new EPA regulations will significantly reduce pollution from brand new diesel engines. The first set of emissions standards for diesel will take effect in 2004. A second set of regulations aimed at reducing sulphur levels will begin in 2007.

Diesel vehicles are very durable and school buses can remain in service for 20 to 30 years. Consequently most school buses on the road today were manufactured before the stringent emission standards of recent years took effect. It is now possible to equip these older buses with safe, affordable, and highly effective technology that will reduce emissions to very low levels.

To bring additional focus onto this important children’s health issue, Whitman will participate in a summit on April 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C. sponsored by Corning Incorporated and other members of the Manufacturers of Emission Control Association. Participants will help EPA identify innovative measures that partners can take to help retrofit the nation’s school buses.