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Air-Quality, Methane Rally Ahead of U.S. Governors Meeting in Santa Fe

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An electric school bus is estimated to save $11,000 in operating costs a year compared to a diesel-powered bus. (c2es.org)
An electric school bus is estimated to save $11,000 in operating costs a year compared to a diesel-powered bus. (c2es.org)
 By Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM - Producer, Contact
July 19, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. — As the National Governors Association meeting gets underway in Santa Fe today, supporters of the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños coalition will rally outside the convention center to call attention to air quality issues.

The group has repeatedly called on the state to use its share of the Volkswagen settlement money to invest in zero-emission, electric school buses. Estefany Gonzalez, coordinator of the Juntos: Our Air, Our Water program with Conservation Voters New Mexico, said her South Valley community in Albuquerque is disproportionately affected by poor air quality.

"We want to remind the governors that we are watching, that they need to be accountable to our communities,” Gonzalez said. “Make sure that we reduce the amount of children and families that are exposed to these pollutants that can cause asthma and other respiratory illnesses."

More than 20 of the nation's governors have indicated they will attend the Santa Fe meeting this week. The air quality rally begins Thursday morning at 10:30 at the State Capitol.

The New Mexico Environment Department has argued that electric buses wouldn't be a cost-effective use of the $18 million in VW settlement funds. But Celerah Hewes, field consultant with the New Mexico Moms Clean Air Force, said anyone with a child riding a school bus for multiple hours each day worries about the link between diesel emissions and asthma.

"Specifically here in New Mexico, we are asking that they invest the Volkswagen settlement money in zero-emissions school buses, and that they try to create air-quality permits to protect our kids from toxic oil and gas pollution,” Hewes said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 6 million kids have asthma, including 1-in-11 children in New Mexico. The state is seeing an increase in oil and gas drilling, which some say contributes to poor air quality, especially in the Four Corners region.

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