Press Release: Attorney General James Stops Four School Bus Companies from Illegal Idling and Polluting at Bus Yards in New York City Communities Bus Companies Will Invest Up to $2 Million to Electrify Buses and Curb Air Pollution from Excessive Idling in Low-Income Communities and Communities of Color

Clean School Bus, Climate and Energy Justice, Community Justice, Disability Justice, Environmental Justice, Health Justice, News

School buses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    
July 8, 2024
Attorney General’s Press Office/212-416-8060 [email protected]

Attorney General James Stops Four School Bus Companies from Illegal Idling and Polluting at Bus Yards in New York City Communities Bus Companies Will Invest Up to $2 Million to Electrify Buses and Curb Air Pollution from Excessive Idling in Low-Income Communities and Communities of Color

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced settlements with four school bus companies to stop illegal excessive idling at their bus yards in communities of color and low-income communities in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and on Staten Island. The companies—Consolidated Bus, Inc. (Consolidated), Logan Bus Company (Logan), Pioneer Transportation Co. (Pioneer), and Total Transportation Corp. (Total)—will each be required to invest up to $2 million to purchase new electric buses or electrify some of their current fleet. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleges that these four companies violated New York laws by allowing school buses to idle for extended periods of time at their bus yards. Emissions from buses and cars are the largest contributor to air pollution in New York, and excessive idling endangers the health of surrounding communities. By contrast, the new electric buses will not emit any air pollutants. The companies will also install automatic idling shut-off timers on their remaining traditional buses and implement anti-idling training for drivers.

“School bus companies play an important role in getting children to and from school safely, but they should be able to do so without polluting our communities,” said Attorney General James. “New Yorkers are already suffering the health consequences of air pollution, and these bus companies all operate bus yards in low-income communities and communities of color that are already bearing the disproportionate impacts of this pollution. We must do everything we can to protect the health of our children and our planet, and my office will always fight against environmental injustice.”

Data provided by the fleet management system that the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) has installed on all New York City school buses indicated that the companies had all repeatedly exceeded idling limits. The data revealed thousands of instances of excessive idling by Consolidated, Logan, Pioneer, and Total at their bus yards. Most of these bus yards, which are in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and on Staten Island, are located in areas identified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as potential “environmental justice areas,” or neighborhoods that are disproportionately impacted by environmental harms such as air pollution. The companies’ bus yards are sometimes clustered together in these neighborhoods, which exacerbates their negative impacts on the surrounding community.

New York law prohibits idling for over five minutes, while New York City law prohibits idling for more than three minutes, or one minute when the vehicle is near a school building. The OAG investigation focused on instances of idling for periods of more than two hours in the early morning to rule out instances where extended idling might be allowed under the law due to other circumstances, such as traffic or picking up and dropping off students.

Emissions from cars, trucks, and buses are one of the leading sources of air pollution in New York state. Idling is a significant source of these emissions, with an estimated 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted in New York City alone each year. Emissions from diesel-powered vehicles like buses are particularly harmful to the communities surrounding bus yards because they emit fine particulate matter that has been linked to numerous problems, including asthma, cancer, and heart disease. The health impacts of air pollution are disproportionately felt in low-income communities and communities of color in New York City, which are often home to bus yards and other high-emission facilities like power plants located in close proximity to residential neighborhoods. Children in Central Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Upper Manhattan—which are predominantly low-income communities and communities of color—are three times more likely than children in other areas of the city to be diagnosed with asthma.

Depending on the number of alleged instances of illegal idling, the companies will each invest at least $300,000 and up to $2 million to purchase new electric school buses or “repower” existing traditional school buses, which involves removing the vehicle’s internal combustion engine and replacing it with an electric drive system. The companies will also implement mandatory training for all bus drivers to reduce unnecessary excessive idling at bus yards.

“New York City’s low-income communities and communities of color continue to be overburdened by pollution, causing serious ongoing harm to residents’ health,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director at New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “Excessive idling and other vehicle emissions are major contributors to this pollution, spewing dangerous contaminants into our air and fueling the climate crisis. We applaud Attorney General James for fighting for healthy air in our communities by holding these school bus companies accountable for illegal idling and speeding their transition into a clean electric bus fleet.

“We applaud Attorney General James for continuing to fight to reduce tailpipe emissions in Hunts Point and across the city. These school bus companies that continue to illegally idle dump harmful pollution into the air that fuels asthma and other lung diseases in our communities,” said Dariella Rodriguez, Director of Community Development at THE POINT CDC. “This settlement sends a clear message to these companies that they cannot continue to ignore the law and that school buses cannot continue to be associated with pollution and respiratory diseases. School buses carry our children and should be a symbol of a thriving future for them, not air pollution and asthma.”

“Idling school buses spew carcinogenic diesel exhaust into the air and children’s lungs, and they also exacerbate the ever-worsening climate crisis,” said Alok Disa, Senior Research and Policy Analyst at Earthjustice. “But electrifying these fleets, with buses that are available today, presents a viable and effective clean energy solution, one that will improve public health and help move us closer to an emissions-free transportation sector in line with our state’s climate plan. We commend the Attorney General for accelerating this transition and taking action to benefit schoolchildren and communities across the city.”

“This settlement shows how critical the city’s strong idling laws are to protecting the health of children and communities, especially disadvantaged communities,” said Suhali Méndez, Policy and Legislative Coordinator at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “We commend Attorney General James’ office for accelerating the process of electrification and for mandating anti-idling shut-off timers to better protect the communities that house these large depots.”

This matter is being handled by Affirmative Section Chief Yueh-ru Chu and Assistant Attorney General Andrew G. Frank of the Environmental Protection Bureau under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Wagner and Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
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