Your Mother’s Day Good Deed: Join Electric School Bus Campaign

By: Patty L. Buchanan

Today, as we pay tribute to all mothers, let us give special consideration to the sustainer of all our lives, Mother Earth.  The national climate stability advocacy group, Mothers Out Front asks us to use this occasion to broaden and strengthen our collective call to transition school bus fleets from diesel to electric.  The local chapter of Mothers Out Front alerted us that right here in Croton, our school district is planning to purchase a new school bus along with several other vehicles in furtherance of a general scheduled fleet upgrade.  Alarmingly, rather than purchasing fully electric vehicles, they actually want to replace a diesel fueled bus with a gasoline fueled bus, and they also want to replace a gasoline van with yet another gasoline van.  This makes no sense.  We must rapidly transition our fleets to electric vehicles; switching from a diesel bus to a gasoline bus does not move the pollution needle sufficiently.  From a greenhouse gas perspective, the difference between gas and diesel emissions is minimal.  The good news is that you will get to vote on the School District’s transportation proposition that requests approval of a bond for funds to purchase these fossil fuel vehicles!

According to Mothers Out Front, 24 million school children travel on 454,000 school buses nationwide.  About 90% of these buses run on diesel fuel annually emitting 3,000 tons of cancer-causing soot and 95,000 tons of smog-causing compounds.

Children riding on diesel school buses are exposed to 5 to 15 times more air toxins than the rest of the population.  Childhood exposure from diesel soot emitted by school buses has also been associated with reduced lung function and increased incidences of pneumonia.  The Natural Resources Defense Council has estimated that school bus diesel exposures to children pose as much as 23 to 46 times the cancer risk considered significant under federal law.  The fossil fuel bus industry has quite a grip on school transportation!

We applaud the Croton School District for its plan to upgrade one of its vans to a plug-in hybrid, which is included in the transportation bond proposition.  However, the bulk of the $225,000 budget in the District’s transportation bond proposition seeks to continue with the business-as-usual carbon-emitting approach to transportation even though the world’s leading scientists warn us that we need to take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented” steps to halt global warming which is causing the climate crisis.  The single biggest contributor to greenhouse gases here in Croton (and nationally) is transportation.

Our local fleet of 44 vehicles contributes an estimated 500 tons of CO2e into the atmosphere annually.*  As a community, we must reduce our greenhouse gases by 50% in this decade and achieve net zero by 2040.  This means that we have to replace at least two carbon emitting vehicles each year over the next 20 years with fully electric alternatives.  As the world’s leading scientists explain, there is no wiggle room and there is no room for delay.  Because CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a long time, we urgently need reductions – not a 15-year commitment to continue to burn fossil fuels to transport our community’s children to school.  So now, our general fleet upgrade goals could be perfectly aligned with well-established carbon reduction imperatives, or not.  Simply put, if the Croton School District proceeds with its plan to purchase two new gasoline vehicles it will do so in direct conflict with its awareness of the harm these vehicles cause to the health of children and the actions we must take to avert catastrophic global warming that will befell the very same children for whom these vehicles are slated to benefit.  While the School District may be willing to ignore facts and science, you do not have to do so.

The current plan to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic logistics is for ballots to be automatically mailed to qualified voters by the District, without the need to make an individual request for a mail-in ballot.  Please consult the School District website and the Westchester County Board of Elections for the most accurate and up-to-date information about the voting process.

The school ballot is expected to include a separate bond proposition not to exceed $225,000 for the purchase of these vehicles.  This bond request seeks to mortgage our financial future, imperil our environment during the climate crisis, and endanger the health of children.  We do not take any position on the general budget, but please consider voting NO to this transportation bond proposition because it includes approval to borrow funds to purchase fossil fuel vehicles.

If you would like to help with a broader organized effort to defeat this request for bond approval for fossil fuel transportation for youth in our school district, please use the “Get Involved” link on the landing page of Croton100’s website.

Have a great Mothers’ Day!

*Blogger’s Note:  On May 20, the School published some specific information about the number and types of vehicles in its fleet.  Based on the newly released data, the number of vehicles and their carbon emissions described in the initial post have been revised to reflect this new information.

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