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Free MN Program Cleans Up School Bus Emissions

May 17, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - Diesel vehicles make up 10 percent of traffic on Minnesota roads, but account for more than 50 percent of all traffic-related air pollution. To the rescue is Project Green Fleet, a collaborative effort among businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations offering free retrofits for buses to reduce emissions. Diesel exhaust contains pollutants that increase the risk of heart and lung disease and can trigger upper respiratory problems, such as asthma.

Children are particularly vulnerable because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, and their bodies are still developing. This is why school bus retrofits are a priority, says Bill Droessler of the Minnesota Environmental Initiative.

"Pollution levels inside school buses can be concentrated and up to five times greater than in the surrounding ambient air."

Droessler says the program retrofits school buses with two types of pollution control equipment, reducing emissions both inside and outside of the vehicles. Project Green Fleet provides and installs the equipment, normally valued at $1500-$2000, at no cost to transportation contractors or school districts. The program is available through the end of this year.

For school districts or transportation companies concerned about losing fuel efficiency or engine performance, Droessler says not to worry.

"There's no impact on the mileage or the torque or the operating temperature of the engine with either of these pieces."

Josh Schiffler of the Crosby-Ironton Transportation Company was one of the first to have his fleet retrofitted.

"When I originally heard about the project, I didn't hesitate to make the call to get on board. It seemed like the right thing to do. It's helping clean up our environment."

Schiffler says the installation process for his fleet was seamless, and he recommends that other districts take advantage of the free retrofits while the program is still voluntary.

"As things are going, there are more and more mandates, and there may be retrofit mandates that come into play. The way funding is going from the government, these grants may go away and contractors or school districts may have to come up with that funding on their own; that would be extremely costly for everyone."

Project Green Fleet has funding to retrofit four hundred Minnesota school buses by the end of the calendar year. For more information, visit www.projectgreenfleet.org

Sharon Rolenc/Deb Courson, Public News Service - MN