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Advocates for Electric School Buses Hold Asthma Fair

More than one in 11 children in New Mexico suffer from asthma. (stjhs.org)
More than one in 11 children in New Mexico suffer from asthma. (stjhs.org)
May 29, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Advocates for cleaner school buses will partner with the state health department to hold an Asthma Fair tonight. Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that keeps more kids from attending school than any other illness.

That's why the community group, "Juntos: Our Air, Our Water" and others want the state to buy zero-emission electric school buses with its share of settlement money from the VW scandal.

Liliana Castillo, communications director of Conservation Voters New Mexico says the fair gives community members with health problems a chance to get access to resources and have their concerns heard.

"Sharing their stories about how they're impacted by asthma and how they've gotten involved in the campaign, you know, and how that is really important to them, that they're involved in creating change in their own community," she says.

In its draft plan, the New Mexico Environment Department said electric school buses wouldn't be a cost-effective use of the $18 million in VW settlement funds. Castillo says that is, in part, because the department estimated each bus would cost $120,000 more than other state agencies have calculated.

Tonight's Asthma Fair is at Albuquerque's South Valley Multipurpose Senior Center at 6 P.M.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than six million children under age 18 have asthma, including one in 11 children in New Mexico. Diesel emissions from buses have been linked to asthma, and Bernalillo County regularly gets a failing grade from the American Lung Association for poor air quality.

Castillo says diesel buses can emit toxins for 15 to 20 years or longer when state agencies don't have the funds to replace older models.

"And we are calling on the New Mexico governor, Susana Martinez, and the Environment Department to alleviate diesel pollution by investing some of New Mexico's $18 million Volkswagen scandal settlement funds in zero-emission electric school buses," she explains.

She says there are cost benefits to making the switch, as well. Each electric bus is estimated to save $11,000 in operating costs a year compared to diesel-powered buses.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM