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Post date: September 26 2005

School Bus Companies Agree To Reduce Diesel Air Pollution

Attorney General Spitzer and Congressman Charles Rangel today announced agreements with five transportation companies to reduce air pollution from idling school buses in the New York City metropolitan region.

Under the agreements, the five bus companies, which together operate more than 1,700 school buses, will:

  • Implement a "no idling" policy that prohibits unnecessary idling for any length of time within one block of a school;
  • Establish an operations plan at bus depots to eliminate excessive idling;
  • Implement a monitoring program for three years and report all compliance activities and findings to the Attorney General's Office; and
  • Pay penalties totaling $61,425.

The reduction in idling obtained through these agreements will cut air pollution annually by approximately 32,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides and 800 pounds of particulate matter, an amount equivalent to the annual operation of a small power plant. In addition, the agreements will save more than 179,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.

State law restricts bus idling to no more than five consecutive minutes. New York City law restricts idling to no more than three consecutive minutes. But an investigation by the Attorney General's office found that buses from the companies repeatedly violated these idling laws. Often, the buses idled for as long as 15 to 20 minutes in front of schools and in residential neighborhoods.

"For years I have been fighting the blight of air pollution in our communities. A recent Harlem Hospital Study found asthma incidents in Northern Manhattan are among the highest in the nation. It impacts our quality of life and most importantly our children's health. Asthma rates and other illnesses our children suffer are directly related to the effects of contaminants such as diesel emissions. This is a step in the long road we are traveling towards environmental justice," said Congressman Charles Rangel.

Attorney General Spitzer said: "Idling school buses expose children and others to harmful diesel exhaust. Today's action is part of an ongoing effort to combat an epidemic of childhood asthma, respiratory disease and other health problems."

Public health, neighborhood and environmental activists praised the agreements:

Rebecca Kalin, Project Director of the Asthma Free School Zone, said: "We have been educating and working with parents and school faculty for over 3 years to eliminate idling, and we can't overstate the importance of sustained enforcement of the idling laws to help us achieve this goal. The Attorney General's enforcement initiative has resulted in less idling and cleaner air."

"The burden of childhood respiratory disease, especially asthma, is compounded by frequent idling of diesel school buses near the same schools where children are being educated. This settlement should help reduce the frequency of asthma attacks due to particulate matter from these diesel buses," said Benjamin Ortiz, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Columbia University - Harlem Hospital.

Diesel emissions have been linked to cancer, heart damage, respiratory diseases, asthma, and other serious health conditions. In 2000, children living in New York City were twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma as children in the U.S. as a whole, and asthma prevalence was twice as high among children residing in low-income areas than among children residing in high-income areas.

The school bus companies that reached the agreements with the Attorney General's Office announced today are:

  • United Tom Tom Transportation, Inc. and related companies, which operate 359 buses in New York City;
  • Jofaz Transportation, Inc. and related companies, which operate 286 buses in New York City;
  • Rainbow Transit, Inc. and related companies, which operate 347 buses in New York City;
  • County Coach Corporation, which operates 60 buses in Westchester County; and
  • Hendrickson Bus Corp. and related companies, which operate 649 buses in Nassau County.

Today's agreements are the most recent in the Attorney General's ongoing anti-idling initiative. Last year, Spitzer announced agreements with four New York City school bus fleets with a total of 6,000 buses. As a result of the latest agreements, 75 percent of New York City's school bus fleet is now covered by anti-idling agreements. In addition, the Attorney General has reached agreements with the Hunt's Point Meat Market, the Hunt's Point Produce Market, Frito-Lay, Greyhound Lines, Community Coach, Gray Line New York Tours, Leisure Lines, and Suburban Trails, covering another approximately 2,300 trucks and buses.

The cases were handled by Assistant Attorneys General Lemuel Srolovic, Marie Chery-Sekhobo, Andrew Frank, Policy Analyst Thomas Congdon, Environmental Scientist Linda Wilson, and Investigator Sal Ventola.