Columbus Dispatch Letter to the Editor: Ohio Can Make School Days Healthier with a Jolt from VW Settlement Funds

Letter to the Editor

Governor Kasich and Ohio officials can now choose to help Ohio kids miss less school while reducing air pollution. Ohio will get $75 million from a Volkswagen settlement to reduce air pollution. Replacing diesel-powered school buses with clean electric ones can achieve both goals.

Over seven years, Volkswagen sold 600,000 diesel cars in the United States with engines programmed to trick emissions standards. As part of a settlement, nearly $3 billion in fines is going to states for pollution-reducing projects. On October 2, the clock started ticking for Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency to determine how it will spend our $75 million share. Replacing Ohio’s aging, dirty diesel school buses with electric buses is one of ten eligible ways Ohio can use this money.

More than 1 million Ohio kids in K-12 who ride the state’s 15,000 school buses would benefit.

Ohio should use this money on electric school buses for three reasons:

Healthier children. About 100,000-plus Ohio kids with asthma ride school buses. Diesel fumes seep into school bus cabins and can trigger asthma attacks. Asthma is a leading reason why kids miss school.

Healthier communities. Diesel buses emit a chemical cocktail near schools, playgrounds and homes. There is no air pollution from idling engines with electric buses because there are no emissions – and no tailpipe.

Healthier energy supply. School buses can tap the growing supply of renewable energy. Their batteries can charge overnight; their extra clean energy can feed the grid when needed.

More than 100 electric school buses are on North American roads. Columbus has committed to electrifying hundreds of its vehicle fleets. Ohio should commit a portion of its VW settlement funds for electric school buses. Governors putting VW money towards electric school buses would demonstrate leadership for health, the environment, our energy future and our children.

Professor and Coordinator
Environmental Health Science program
Department of Social and Public Health
Ohio University
Athens

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