Senator Lucio's Letterhead

CAPITOL UPDATE FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 13, 2008
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0385

Sen. Lucio Pushes Top-Quality Transportation for Students

If we want top-quality schools for our children, we should also want top-quality transportation to get them there.

Take a close look at a school bus sometime. You will see something missing that I wish was there and something there that I wish was missing. What's missing are seat belts and what's not are polluting emissions.

To keep our youngsters safe in a collision or other hazard was addressed by my bill last legislative session that requires three-point seat belts in all new school buses purchased after Sept. 1, 2010. My quest this upcoming session is to garner support for the funding needed by our school districts so they can plan for seat belts to prevent our children from being bounced around during an accident, which can cause serious injuries or even death.

The other safety hazard involves diesel engines that cause air pollution, which can be more harmful to children than adults. Young children are more susceptible to these emissions because they breathe more air per pound of body weight. Diesel exhaust contains small particles, known as fine particulate matter, or PM, that can easily pass through the nose and throat, penetrate deep into the lungs and pose serious health risks, including aggravated asthma and allergies. Some studies show a cancer link to long-term exposure. PM causes haze that restricts visibility, and also contributes to environmental and aesthetic damage.

If we've passed regulations to reduce car and other emissions, why not reduce school bus emissions while we're working on cleaning up our air.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) offers a solution for our school districts, and I strongly encourage participation in their program.

The Texas Clean School Bus Program is designed to improve the health of school kids and bus drivers by assisting school districts in reducing diesel exhaust emissions from their school buses.

This program isn't just an attention grabber. It actually provides grants for eligible projects that reduce these emissions. TCEQ also provides education through this program about various clean school bus options that can improve the school bus fleet, thus improving the environment and human health in turn.

Educating schools and the public about the potential health impacts associated with diesel bus idling, with a goal of eliminating unnecessary idling altogether, is a vital component of this holistic approach to emissions reduction.

The Texas Legislature is behind this important program. My colleagues and I have attended events honoring school districts who applied for and were awarded grants so they can participate in this program. Just recently, I had the honor of speaking at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA), where we recognized the school district for receiving $87,638 in grants to retrofit 42 of their buses. The beneficiaries of the PSJA decision to apply for the grant are not just the student riders and bus drivers, but the community as a whole.

To be retrofitted, a bus must operate on a regular, daily route to and from a school and have at least five years of remaining useful life, unless the applicant agrees to remove the retrofit device at the end of the bus's life and install the device on a different bus.

Four types of retrofits are currently approved for funding. For more information on these retrofits and the program in general, you can log onto http://www.epa.gov/otaq/retrofit/verif-list.htm.

All public school districts and charter schools that operate one or more diesel-powered school buses can qualify for up to $250,000 per grant request to retrofit their buses, and while there are limits as to how much money can be reimbursed for each retrofit device there are no limits as to how often a school district can submit a grant request.

At any rate, seat belts and emissions reduction devices are investments worth making for our children's safety and health, plus they benefit our school bus drivers and South Texas communities to boot.

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.

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