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Post date: July 16 2009

Attorney General Cuomo Announces $500,000 To Protect Westchester, Putnam And Dutchess County Schoolchildren From Harmful Air Pollution

ALBANY, N.Y. (07/16/09) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced his office is dedicating $500,000 to an innovative program to protect thousands of schoolchildren in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties from harmful air pollution.

The funds, from a record $9.5 million that Cuomo secured from a 2007 court-ordered settlement with American Electric Power over federal Clean Air Act violations, will be used to upgrade approximately 140 school buses in the three counties with state-of-the-art anti-idling technologies, significantly reducing area children’s exposure to dangerous diesel emissions.

“New York’s schoolchildren should never be exposed to harmful emissions, especially from the school buses in which they spend so much of their time during the course of the year,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “The investment my office is making available will dramatically reduce diesel emissions from school buses in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties, creating a healthier environment for thousands of schoolchildren across the region. My office is proud to do our part to fight for our children's right to breathe safe, clean air.”

The exposure of children to the diesel exhaust from idling school buses is a serious health concern. Diesel exhaust contributes to soot, smog, and other harmful pollution in outdoor air, and has been linked to asthma, heart disease, cancer, and other serious health impacts, especially among children. Idling can also result in unhealthy air inside school buses, with studies finding that air pollution levels inside idling buses can be substantially higher than outside.

The $500,000 in funding through Cuomo’s office will pay for the installation of state-of-the-art technology - called coolant-heaters - on school buses to discourage engine idling. School buses often idle their engines for long periods of time in the winter to provide heat to the driver and keep the school bus warm while waiting for the children. Coolant heaters allow buses to warm-up without engine idling.

As a result, the technology to be installed will dramatically cut schoolchildren’s exposure to harmful air pollution. It is estimated that by upgrading approximately 140 school buses with this anti-idling technology, 158 tons of carbon dioxide, 5 tons of nitrogen oxides, 3 tons of carbon monoxide and 200 pounds of particulate matter will be eliminated annually - representing major reductions in emissions that contribute to soot and smog pollution, as well as to global warming and acid rain.

In addition, the installation of this anti-idling technology will save the participating school districts considerable fuel and money. Collectively, school districts are expected to save about 11,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year - an annual cost savings of roughly $35,000

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will administer the funding through an open 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. Applicants in Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester counties will be eligible.

“Today's announcement is yet another example of public partnerships working together to protect our environment, improve local air quality, and reduce vehicle emissions," said Francis J. Murray, Jr., President and CEO of NYSERDA. “I commend school districts and private fleet operators for placing environmental stewardship at a premium. The emissions reducing devices installed on the buses will transport students and young children in a healthy and environmentally-friendly way, reducing the air pollutants that can impact asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases.”

Funding for the program comes from a landmark settlement that a coalition of states and environmental groups - led by New York and the federal government - reached with American Electric Power (AEP), the nation’s largest power company, for violations of the federal Clean Air Act. From this settlement, Cuomo secured a record $9.5 million in environmental improvement payments over five years for use in energy efficiency and air pollution reduction projects - the largest payment for environmental projects ever received from a New York State settlement under the Clean Air Act.

Also today, Cuomo announced the dedication of $500,000 from the AEP settlement towards the creation of a solar power facility in Saratoga County that will help prepare New York’s workforce for future “green jobs” in the renewable energy field by providing hands-on education and training in state-of-the-art solar electric technologies. Cuomo also dedicated close to $2 million in funding from the settlement last fall to create a new oil energy efficiency pilot program, administered by NYSERDA, to help New York’s neediest families cope with the high cost of home heating oil.

Today’s actions reflect the Attorney General’s continuing commitment to enforcing environmental and anti-idling laws. In April, Cuomo announced he had reached an agreement with Fresh Direct, the New York City metropolitan area grocery delivery company, committing the company to adopting an innovative anti-idling program for its fleet of roughly 100 delivery trucks. This program includes installing electronic controls on delivery trucks that will automatically turn off idling engines. Fresh Direct will also pay a $50,000 penalty for violating state and city anti-idling laws.

Those interested in applying for the funding being provided by Cuomo may call NYSERDA at 1-877-NYSMART for more information.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Robert Rosenthal, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief General Lisa Burianek and Special Deputy Attorney General for Environmental Protection Katherine Kennedy.