The Arizona Republic
Let’s use VW settlement money to fix school buses
Retrofitting old, polluting vehicles will benefit kids
Herlinda Caldéron is a mother, a caregiver, a climate-justice advocate and a proud Arizonan.
Every day, her three children ride the bus for an hour to get to and from school. All the while, they breathe polluted air that endangers their health and that of tens of thousands more children in our Maricopa County community.
Each of Calderon’s children have made regular visits to the emergency room and doctor’s office because they suffer from asthma. That’s just one reason why Caldéron took to the streets of Phoenix at the People’s Climate March in April, joining hundreds of thousands of people nationwide in calling for policy makers to protect all of us by prioritizing proenvironmental policies.
And that’s why Herlinda volunteers for Chispa Arizona, a program of the League of Conservation Voters that’s working in local neighborhoods to grow the political power and ability of our communities to address a wide range of environmental challenges that disproportionately impact Latinos and communities of color.
Latino children nationwide suffer among the highest rates of asthma. Now is the time to address this potentially deadly health issue by cleaning up the country’s largest means of public transit: school buses. Statewide, more than 600 school districts serve more than a million students, more than half of whom are Latino and black.
Chispa is stepping up its efforts in Arizona via the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign by calling on Gov. Doug Ducey and our state Legislature to use the $57 million in VW Environmental Mitigation Fund dollars awarded Arizona from a $2.7 billion federal court settlement with Volkswagen to retrofit and purchase electric, zero-emissions school buses. The settlement dollars must be used for projects that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
Here in Maricopa County, our air is notoriously filthy. The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report gave Phoenix an “F” for air quality and ranked it as having the fifth-worst polluted air in the country.
It’s time to get dirty diesel polluting school buses off the road and out of our neighborhoods for the sake of our children, our health and our planet.
Spending Arizona’s nearly $60 million settlement allotment to replace diesel-powered buses with zero emission is the fastest, most effective way to begin reversing the damage that still being done.
It would also help to keep Herlinda Calderon’s children, and many more like them, out of our emergency rooms and in their classrooms.
Masavi Perea is the state program director for Chispa Arizona, a community-organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters. Email him at email@example.com; On Twitter, @ChispaAZ.
The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report gave Phoenix an “F” for air quality and ranked it as having the fifth-worst polluted air in the country.