Fighting Diesel Pollution’s Impact on Our Community Health

By:  Molly Taylor, Deputy Director of Programs

In January, CVNM Education Fund publicly released a health impact assessment (HIA) about the health and social impacts of replacing diesel-powered school buses with electric-powered school buses. The report

CVNM Education Fund delivers the HIA report to the Governor

release concludes two years of assessment work in partnership with community organizations, like Mom’s Clean Air Force, and community members in Bernalillo, McKinley and Rio Arriba counties. We are grateful for the partnership of the many community organizations, leaders, and families that helped to shape this HIA report.

This HIA brings concrete health costs to the transportation decision-making process. The assessment became a priority for CVNM Education Fund after the organization’s volunteers in Bernalillo, McKinley and Rio Arriba counties expressed concerns about the adverse impacts of diesel exhaust emissions from school buses on the health and well-being of their communities. Through a series of community conversations, CVNM staff determined that the adverse impacts of diesel emissions on physical and mental healthand consequently on educational attainment and income and job securitywere particularly urgent concerns.

As a result, CVNM Education Fund and allied organizations conducted a detailed assessment of these impacts and how they might be mitigated. In 2016, New Mexico received just under $18 million as a result of the Volkswagen (VW) settlement. The funds are earmarked for programs that transition diesel vehicles to cleaner burning vehicles like alternative and electric fueled cars and buses. As the state considers projects to fund from the VW settlement in the coming years, the HIA sought to determine the potential health impacts of transitioning to electric buses to help leaders make an informed decision.

The HIA developed several core recommendations, which include:

  1. School districts should enforce or develop bus idling restrictions to ensure that students attending their schools and the surrounding communities do not experience unnecessary exposure to air pollution from diesel school buses.
  2. School districts should work to replace diesel-powered school buses with electric-powered school buses, prioritizing communities with low-income, Latino/Hispanic or Indigenous populations, particularly those whose students are burdened by long bus rides in rural communities.
  3. School officials should work with their school contractors to initiate mitigation efforts immediately to decrease exposure while the transition from diesel to electric is underway.
  4. The New Mexico Environment Department, in administering the funds under the Volkswagen settlement, should encourage the replacement of diesel school buses with electric school buses.

To see the full list of recommendations, and access the full report and additional documents that were released, visit: https://cvnmef.org/health-impact-assessment-report/