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MN Electric School Bus Advocates Renew Push for Volkswagen Money

Studies have shown the concentration of pollutants inside a diesel-powered school bus can be 23 to 46 times higher than the safe limit. (
Studies have shown the concentration of pollutants inside a diesel-powered school bus can be 23 to 46 times higher than the safe limit. (
August 15, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Advocates who want to see cleaner running school buses on the streets are urging residents to let the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency know they want the state's Volkswagen settlement money spent to purchase the buses.

Noa Shavit-Lonstein, a policy analyst with the clean energy advocacy group MN350, says emissions from diesel buses are linked to asthma in Minnesota, where one in 14 children and one in 13 adults suffers from the lung disease.

She says the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is taking input through Friday on how the VW funds should be spent.

"Air pollution, especially the kind that comes from transportation, small particulate matter, sulfur oxide – those are linked to asthma attacks, to heart disease, to all these things that interfere with the lives of children and adults," she points out.

A 2015 study found that between 6% and 13% of respiratory and cardiovascular hospital visits in the Twin Cities could partly be attributed to air pollution, despite air quality meeting federal standards.

Asthma is the primary cause of school absenteeism in Minnesota, hitting communities of color especially hard where asthma rates are higher.

Volkswagen agreed to pay nearly $3 billion to settle claims that for a decade its diesel vehicles violated clean air standards and the company cheated on emission tests to hide that pollution.

Shavit-Longstein says Minnesota still has $23 million left to distribute, and putting it toward children and climate-change action should be a priority.

"Electric school buses are still pretty expensive, and it can be a hard thing for school districts to justify without a grant like this, and so it's really important that Minnesota seeds that progress and makes it part of our climate plan," she states.

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

At the same time, she says an electric bus is estimated to save $11,000 in operating costs a year compared with diesel powered buses.

Written comments can be can sent to

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN