WE ACT Joins Coalition to Protect New York City Children from Diesel School Bus Emissions



Coalition Launches Campaign to Protect Children from Carcinogenic Pollution
and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Contributing to Climate Change


October 5, 2020
Contact: Chris Dobens, 212-410-1963, chris@weact.org


NEW YORK — In honor of Children’s Health Day, WE ACT for Environmental Justice will join 350Brooklyn, Earthjustice, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, North Brooklyn Neighbors, elected officials, and concerned community members at 4:00 PM EDT today to announce the formation of the New York City Clean School Bus Coalition and the launch of its campaign to electrify the city’s privately-owned school bus fleets, beginning with those that serve low-income communities and communities of color.

“The vast majority of the approximately 10,000 school buses that serve our city run on diesel fuel, which means the exhaust they produce is a Group 1 carcinogen with high levels of particulate matter pollution that studies have shown increase the threats of asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, heart attacks, lung cancer, and premature death,” explained Sonal Jessel, WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s Policy and Advocacy Coordinator.

“But that’s only half the story,” added Jessel. “A study by the NRDC found that school buses are self-polluting, exposing children on the bus to exhaust levels that were 23 to 46 times higher than those consider to be a significant cancer risk by the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, the study found that kids on the bus may be exposed to up to four times as much diesel exhaust – a known carcinogen – than someone traveling in a car directly behind that bus. That’s alarming news, especially if you are a parent of one of the 150,000 New York City children to ride these buses twice a day throughout a normal school year.

“Another reason we joined this coalition is because transportation is New York’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions contribute directly to the climate crisis, and low-income communities and communities of color are the hardest hit by climate change,” noted Jessel. “But we are also prioritizing the electrification of buses that serve these communities, like those here in Northern Manhattan, because they bear a disproportionate burden of pollution from multiple sources, creating cumulative impacts that have resulted in some of the highest rates of asthma in the nation, higher rates of underlying health conditions that have made them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and overall higher rates of chronic diseases. Our communities, and our children in particular, deserve better.”

The press conference for this announcement will be held via Zoom at 4:00 PM EDT today, October 5, 2020, with an opportunity for Q&A. Those interested in attending can register here.

Prior to joining the coalition, WE ACT for Environmental Justice (WE ACT) had been supporting Intro 455-2018. This bill would put age limits on existing school buses contracted with the New York City Department of Education and require that new buses be electric vehicles with closed crankcase ventilation systems.

In 1997, WE ACT begin its “Dirty Diesel” campaign to convince the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to switch to clean-fuel buses, retrofit its depots, and abide by the City’s idling laws. The campaign was eventually a success, helping reduce MTA bus tailpipe emissions by 95 percent citywide. On January 29, 2020, WE ACT’s Co-Founder and Executive Director Peggy Shepard and Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives Cecil Corbin-Mark were invited by the MTA to the launch of the first electric bus serving Northern Manhattan.

# # #


WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


Stay Up To Date