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Post date: June 18 2008

Attorney General Cuomo's Office Dedicates $500,000 To Reducing Air Pollution In Western New York

ROCHESTER, NY (June 18, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced his office is dedicating $500,000 to a program to reduce air pollution in Western New York. These funds, obtained from a recent settlement with Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E), will be used to retrofit 180 school buses in the Rochester region with pollution-reduction technologies, significantly reducing area school children’s exposure to harmful pollutants.

“Protecting the environment is about protecting our own health and the health of our children,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “Reducing diesel emissions from school buses will drastically improve the air quality at schools across the Rochester region, creating a healthier environment for school children across the region. My Office is proud to do our part to reduce air pollution so that residents of Rochester and surrounding areas can enjoy a healthy, clean environment.”

In February 2008, the Attorney General’s office reached a settlement with RG&E requiring the company to shut down its coal-burning Russell power plant in the Town of Greece, Monroe County and if it is replaced, build a cleaner, state-of-the-art natural gas plant. The agreement also mandated that RG&E pay $500,000 to fund clean air projects in the Rochester area.

After careful consideration, the Attorney General’s office is awarding this money to the New York State Clean Air School Bus Program, a program operated by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”). Since its inception in 2004, this program has retrofitted over 2,300 school buses in New York State with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified emission reducing technologies, including diesel oxidation catalysts and crankcase filters. The money awarded by the Attorney General’s office will supplement the existing program, whose initial funding has run its course.

The exposure of children to the diesel exhaust of school buses is a growing public health concern. School buses can release a wide range of pollutants into the air, including particulate matter, hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and other toxic chemicals. Studies have linked emissions of these chemicals with respiratory illnesses such as asthma in children. The Clean Air School Bus Program protects children's health by eliminating the release of hundreds of thousands of pounds of harmful pollutants over the lifetime of the retrofitted school buses.

NYSERDA will administer its program through competitive solicitation, inviting eligible applicants, including school districts, municipalities, and private fleet owners, to apply for a grant to have their currently-operating school buses retrofitted with the emission reducing technology. EPA-certified emission-reducing technologies such as particulate traps or filters and oxidation catalyst are eligible. The program will be open to applicants in Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Ontario, and Livingston Counties.

Attorney General Cuomo thanked NYSERDA and the Department of Environmental Conservation for their cooperation in the matter.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Robert Rosenthal and Michael Myers, under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General for Environmental Protection Katherine Kennedy.