Our children and our communities have a right to breathe clean air. Yet more than 25 million children ride dirty diesel school buses each day in the United States, facing exposure to dangerous toxins that can cause asthma, heart and lung disease, and cancer. Diesel is especially damaging to children’s lungs, which are just developing. It’s no surprise then that 1 in 11 children nationwide—roughly 6 million kids altogether—suffers from asthma. Asthma is currently the leading cause of school absences. That’s why in 2017, CTLCV Education Fund launched joined the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, calling on governors across the nation and other decision-makers to put the health of our children and families first by using funds from the Volkswagen settlement to fund zero-emission, electric school buses
WHY THE VOLKSWAGEN SETTLEMENT?
Volkswagen cheated federal emissions tests and polluted the air we breathe with toxins emitted by diesel vehicles, which increase respiratory illnesses and further the effects of climate change. In 2016, Volkswagen agreed to pay a total of $4.7 billion dollars for polluting our air and putting profits over our health. Of that, $2.7 billion was distributed to states for projects to promote clean air and mitigate diesel pollution.
CTLCV Education Fund proposed these dollars be re-invested in our communities and school districts. With this money, states would be able to take dirty diesel buses off our roads and replace them with clean, zero-emission buses. This is particularly important for low-income and communities of color where students and families are most at risk of breathing dirty air, and are disproportionately suffering the effects of diesel pollution.
Electric school buses are the only kinds of buses to produce ZERO emissions. They are safer for our kids, cleaner for the environment, and ultimately cheaper; they can help local school districts save $10,000 to $12,000 money per year in maintenance and operation costs. They are the best investment in our children’s health.
Now, we continue to push state decision makers to dedicate funding for school districts to invest in electric school buses. Whether through Volkswagen settlement funds, partnerships with local utilities or co-ops, or other sources of financing, we must transition from dirty diesel fleets to clean, zero-emission electric school buses that won’t put the health of our children at risk. Our children deserve to breathe clean air. Dirty diesel buses shouldn’t endanger them in their pursuit of an education. It’s time to fund a #CleanRide4Kids.
In August of 2019, CTLCV Education Fund met with officials from the Connecticut Department Of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to discuss the Volkswagen (VW) mitigation settlement. We applaud the good faith effort by DEEP to openly discuss how to prioritize transformative projects in environmental justice communities.
The first round of grant awards in 2018 unfortunately contained a number of projects to procure new, so-called "clean" diesel buses. These buses still spew toxic emissions into our neighborhoods. This time around, DEEP added greenhouse gas reduction to their list of prioritized categories for funding.
DEEP can only consider the proposals it receives, so CTLCV Education Fund worked collaboratively with a variety of stakeholders to educate them on the VW settlement as well as additional funds available to electric vehicle (EV) projects. CTLCV Education Fund is also in direct talks with electric bus manufacturers about how we can bring creative financing options to the table which to put the first electric school buses into service here in Connecticut.
As a result, CTLCV Education Fund is proud to report that a new electric school bus was approved for Middletown as part of the second round of grants in the VW fund. We are thrilled to see this clean school bus going to a community that suffers from lack of representation and terrible air quality.
Unfortunately, most of the other projects announced are diesel-to-diesel bus replacements. It's clear we still have a tremendous amount of work ahead to make sure our kids can breathe easy as they ride to school.
CTLCV Education Fund would also like to strongly commend former teacher and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) for her tireless work on the EV front by introducing the Clean School Bus Act to fund the replacement of dirty diesel school buses with clean electric vehicles at the national level. Underrepresented communities are suffering higher rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases due to the toxic fumes of traditional diesel buses.
CTLCV Education Fund is working to support communities who want clean buses for their children. We are working actively in Middletown and Hartford on this important shift to clean buses and a safer cleaner environment, so we can all breathe a little easier.