7:18 PM EST, November 30, 2012
For reasons that should be obvious, children emerging from school at the end of the day should not be discharged into a fog of diesel exhaust. Thus it's good to see — for the second time this year — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency crackdown on school bus companies operating in Connecticut for excessive engine idling.
To settle a claim by the EPA of excessive idling in Connecticut and Rhode Island, Ocean State Transit and STA of Connecticut, both subsidiaries of Student Transportation of America, agreed to reduce schoolchildren's exposure to diesel pollution coming from its 7,500 buses in 16 states, pay a $35,000 penalty and perform environmental projects valued at $131,000. Last fall, EPA inspectors observed STA schoolbuses idling for extended periods of time — sometimes more than 30 minutes — in Danbury, Naugatuck and Higganum, and at two sites in Stamford and Groton.
Earlier this year, facing a claim of excess idling in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Durham School Services agreed to reduce idling from its school bus fleet of 13,900 buses operating in 30 states, pay a $90,000 penalty and perform environmental projects valued at $348,000. That penalty was the result of inspections in Storrs, among other places, that found some buses idling for almost two hours. The law in Connecticut is that no vehicles are allowed to idle for more than three minutes, except in some limited situations.
Idling wastes fuel and causes air pollution. An idling vehicle emits 20 times more pollution than one traveling at 30 mph, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it.
Air pollution can cause or aggravate a variety of health problems. Children are more sensitive to the mix of toxics, chemicals, gases and particulate matter coming out of tail pipes because they breathe 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults. The fine particles in diesel fuel may be a human carcinogen. It is time to end the idling mindset, among parents and school principals as well as bus drivers.
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