Published Online: May 8, 2002
Published in Print: May 8, 2002, as Federal File

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Point of Hue

It's not easy being green.

But with some help from the federal government, some of those old yellow school buses may be in for a paint job of sorts.

While Congress may be at odds over proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, both chambers agree on at least one energy policy: promoting "greener" school buses.

Versions of the energy bill passed by the House and Senate each include a pilot program to subsidize switching to buses that emit less pollution. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Reps. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., pushed the provision.

The legislation supports the use of alternative-fuel vehicles and vehicles equipped with cleaner-burning diesel engines. Both bills would authorize $300 million in federal spending over five years.

For school districts strapped for cash and "trying to make decisions between purchasing cleaner buses or buying books for the school library, this kind of federal bill will be of tremendous help," said Robin L. Leeds, the executive director of the Connecticut School Transportation Association. Her group represents companies that provide transportation to districts.

Ms. Leeds said most of the nation's more than 450,000 public school buses have regular diesel engines and cost about $50,000. The added cost for a bus that uses cleaner diesel fuel is about $6,000 to $7,000.

The cost of a bus run with liquefied natural gas, one of the alternative fuels listed in the bills, is about $35,000 above the typical bus, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge, Mass.-based advocacy group. The group suggests, however, that those costs would be recouped in reduced operating expenses and maintenance costs.

"The health impacts of diesel exhaust were the primary impetus for several members of Congress to develop this grant program, which enables school districts to actually retire their oldest, dirtiest buses," said Michelle A. Robinson, a senior advocate for the scientists' group.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 21, Issue 34, Page 19

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