EPA awards Western North Carolina Regional Air Agency with Clean School Bus USA Grant
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that is has awarded the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency (WNCRAQA) a $274,455 grant through its Clean School Bus USA Grant Program. The grant will assist WNCRAQA in establishing a regional project to reduce diesel school bus emissions in Buncombe, Haywood, Madison, and Transylvania Counties, and is one of only 17 grants being awarded nationwide. This announcement marks the initiation of a project that will effectively retrofit all school buses in these four counties and provide cleaner air for the nearly 22,500 children who ride those buses and the nearly 315,000 people who reside in these communities.
The Clean School Bus USA initiative encourages a reduction in children’s exposure to diesel exhaust across the United States by: (1) encouraging policies and practices to eliminate unnecessary school bus idling; (2) installing effective emission control systems on newer buses; and (3) replacing the oldest buses in the fleet with new ones. Congress supplied an additional $5 million to EPA this year for a cost-shared grant program designed to assist school districts in upgrading their bus fleets. On June 13th, EPA announced that the $5 million appropriation would be available in the form of grants to local school districts nationwide. EPA received 116 applications from across the country requesting nearly $60 million in funds for projects to reduce school bus emissions.
In October 2002, WNCRAQA obtained a $75,000 grant from EPA through the Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program to establish a retrofit pilot project in Buncombe County. Eighty-eight of the 288 buses in the Buncombe County Schools fleet were retrofitted with emission control equipment in July 2003 using these funds. Building on momentum from this pilot project, WNCRAQA again approached Buncombe County Schools, as well as other school districts in the surrounding area to inquire about interest in applying for funds through EPA’s Clean School Bus USA Grant Program to establish a regional retrofit project. These inquiries resulted in interest from Buncombe, Haywood, Madison, and Transylvania County Schools.
In July of this year, WNCRAQA developed the regional retrofit project workplan and submitted it for consideration under EPA’s Clean School Bus USA Grant Program. This workplan outlines a proposal to reduce school bus emissions by placing emission control equipment on 184 additional buses in the Buncombe County Schools fleet, 63 buses in the Haywood County Schools fleet, 37 buses in the Madison County Schools fleet, and 37 buses in the Transylvania County Schools fleet. Diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs), similar to catalytic converters on cars, are the retrofit control equipment to be employed in this project. DOCs have been verified by EPA to reduce emissions from diesel combustion by the following amounts: particulate matter - 20%, carbon monoxide - 40%, hydrocarbons - 50%.
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