Minimize exposure.The federal government should set a goal of reducing children’s exposure to school bus pollu-tion to the lowest reasonable level. Through the five “rs,” emissions can be reduced 85 percent or more over the next five years. The U.S. Environ-mental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current goal of retrofitting or replacing all school buses by 2010 is an important step, but only provides a fraction of the benefits that current emission control technology can achieve.
Increase federal funding. The EPA, through its enforcement actions and funding initiatives, is responsible for about one of every three school bus cleanup efforts in this country. Its Clean School Bus USA program in particular has been a resounding success, but the program’s annual budget remains small—ranging between five million and 7.5 million dollars since its inception in 2003. The average annual invest-ment is roughly equal to the capital cost of 75 new conventional school buses. These efforts will be complemented by a national Clean School Bus Grant Program estab-lished by Congress in 2005 and authorized at $55 million a year for fiscal 2006 and 2007. School buses are also eligible for cleanup under the Diesel Emissions reduction Act, a compre-hensive national cleanup program authorized by Congress at $200 million a year for five years. However, because authorization amounts do not ensure actual funding, it is vital that these programs receive robust budget and appropria-tions support from both the White House and Congress over the next few years to ensure real progress.
Build state programs.States should follow the models used by California and Washington to reduce school bus pollution. California has reduced its soot pollution nearly nine percent through its Lower-Emission School Bus Program, which has installed particulate traps on more than 10 percent of the state’s fleet and retired hundreds of older buses since 2000. In ad-dition, about 1 in 20 school buses on California’s roads are powered by natural gas. Washington has reduced its soot pollution more than seven percent through its Clean Buses, Healthy Kids retrofit Project, which has retro-fitted 38 percent of the state’s fleet with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) over the last several years. Washington’s ultimate goal is to retrofit every one of its school buses.
Improve federal standards.Children are experiencing health problems related to particulate and ozone pollution even in areas that meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Strengthening these standards is critical to protecting children’s health and will provide added incentive for states to reduce soot emis-sions from all diesel engines.The current soot standards essentially treat all particles within specific size ranges as equivalent in terms of their potential to harm human health. But recent research indicates that the public health consequences of soot pollution vary with particle size, toxicity, and composition. Further research is needed to evaluate whether mass-based stan-dards are sufficient for protecting public health. Specifically, the EPA should explore whether its tailpipe standards ought to include limits based on particle size, number, and toxicity. In addition, the current certification process for new engines should be supplemented with robust in-use performance tests.
Support new technologies.More research is needed into the sources of pollution inside buses and strategies for reducing children’s exposure to it. Additionally, all diesel trucks and buses should be subject to inspection and maintenance programs that will ensure pollution controls remain effective in the real world over the two-, three-, and even four-decade lifetime of the vehicles. Finally, school buses should, like the most advanced passenger cars and trucks, come equip-ped with the cutting-edge technologies that will power our future. The welfare of our children should drive investments in school buses that meet 2010 standards today, hybrid and plug-in buses, and (over the long term) pollution-free buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells