Senator Carper, Senator Padilla, Senator Cortez Masto, Health Advocates, and School Nurses Hold Press Conference Calling For Increased Funding for Zero-Emission School Buses

Speakers called on Congress to protect children’s health by supporting transition to electric school buses in federal infrastructure investments

Earlier today, Senators Tom Carper (DE), Alex Padilla (CA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), advocates from national health organizations, and school nurses joined the American Lung Association in a press conference on Capitol Hill where they called on Congress to increase funding for zero-emission electric school buses in federal infrastructure investments. The press conference was held as the Senate returned from August recess to work on the infrastructure package and budget reconciliation bill.

During the press conference, speakers called attention to the benefits of zero-emission school buses for children’s health and the communities they serve. The press conference was held against a back-drop of a made-in-America Blue Bird electric school bus. Photos of the event are available here.

“Investments in electric school buses are investments in a better future for students across the country,” said Senator Tom Carper (D-DE). “As we work to pass once-in-a-generation climate legislation in the Senate, I’m thankful to have partners like the American Lung Association. By prioritizing the transition to zero-emission school buses, we will clean up the air that students breathe and move our nation closer to meeting our climate goals.”

“Outdated diesel school buses expose our children to harmful and unnecessary pollution — hurting their health and their achievement in school,” said Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA). “I’m proud to lead the fight to deploy electric school buses nationwide. As we work to recover from the pandemic, we must aim high to build back better and combat the existential threat of climate change. I’m excited to continue pursuing a bold agenda for the climate and our students.”

“Our kids are our future, and we need to protect the air that they breathe,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV). “I appreciate the strong advocacy of the large coalition that includes the American Lung Association, which is why I pushed hard to make sure that the bipartisan infrastructure bill included my legislation to help our schools switch to clean buses that reduce pollution. I’ll keep working to make sure it gets signed into law.”

Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), another champion of zero-emission buses, also weighed in. 

“With investments in electric school buses, led by Georgia’s BlueBird Corporation, we are poised to lead the state into a sustainable energy future—the green energy jobs future,” said Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA). “That is why I was proud to introduce the Clean Commute for Kids Act that will replace our old diesel buses with zero-emission models that are good for the economy, good for our air quality, and great for the health of our children.”

Exposure to air pollution as a pre-teen and teenager may adversely impact performance IQ.  Air pollution is also linked to higher rates of COVID-19 death rates. The impacts of air pollution from school buses is especially profound in Black and Hispanic communities who are exposed to disproportionately high levels of particle pollution, and children from low-income communities, who are more likely to depend on school buses to get to school.

“Our kids deserve to travel to and from school without being put in harm’s way, and recent polling shows that voters agree,” said Harold Wimmer, National President & CEO of the American Lung Association. “Today, we, along with our partners in the health community, called on Congress to jump start our transition to zero-emission buses with critical funding. The transition is a smart investment that will not only improve children’s health, but can also save school districts money in the long-term.” 

Today’s event comes on the heels of a new 30-second ad, launched by the American Lung Association, that is appearing on premium streaming platforms (such as Hulu, Roku, NBC and CNN) in target markets across Arizona, Georgia, and West Virginia. The ad outlines the serious health and academic impacts of diesel bus pollution and encourages viewers to contact Congress in support of electrifying school buses. 

Speakers at the press conference included:

  • Senator Alex Padilla (D-California)
  • Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware)
  • Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada)
  • Laura Kate Bender, National Assistant Vice President, American Lung Association
  • Piper Largent, Director of Government Affairs, National Association of School Nurses
  • Kristie Trousdale, MPH, Deputy Director, Children’s Environmental Health Network
  • Jill Aquino, BA, MS, RN, school and psychiatric nurse, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Select quotes from speaker remarks are listed below. 

PIPER LARGENT (National Association of School Nurses): “Diesel exposure can be extremely harmful to children. Diesel exhaust exposure is linked to serious health effects in children, including asthma and diminished brain function… Children are especially vulnerable to poor air quality, as their brains and respiratory systems are still developing.”

KRISTIE TROUSDALE (Children’s Environmental Health Network): “It's important to note that the burdens of asthma fall most heavily on our Black and Brown children. Regardless of family income, children of color have higher rates of addition, children in these communities are more likely to rely on school buses than children in white and affluent neighborhoods whose families are more likely to own cars and to be able to drive their children to and from school. Clearly, diesel fueled school buses contribute to and compound childhood health inequities in our country. And it is past time to electrify our nation's school bus fleet, prioritizing support for this transition in our most impacted communities.”

JILL AQUINO (Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments): “Without full funding for electric buses, lower income and marginalized communities are going to be left behind once again. These communities are notoriously overburdened with the worst air quality, the highest rates of air pollution and the highest rates of asthma. We can and we have to do better.”

LAURA KATE BENDER (American Lung Association): “This should not be a political issue. It’s a necessary step to ensure that our nation’s kids grow up healthy.  And the public agrees. The American Lung Association released a poll that found that 68% of voters support a federal investment of $20 billion dollars to transition from diesel school buses to zero- emission. 72% would prefer the school buses in their own neighborhoods be electric. And 82% say reducing air pollution around children is not a partisan issue, it’s just common sense.”

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