FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

More Than 125 Rally Outside National Governors Association Meeting, Calling on Governors to Invest in Clean, Electric School Buses for Children
The Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign includes parents, students, and activists calling for action to fight air pollution and protect children’s health

SANTA FE, N.M. — More than 125 parents, students, families, and activists from across the country gathered at the New Mexico Capitol Thursday morning to demand governors, attending the summer meeting of the National Governors Association nearby, prioritize clean air by using the $2.7 billion in Volkswagen settlement money to replace diesel school buses with zero-emission, electric school buses. At the rally, activists also called for states to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.

As states begin releasing their Environmental Mitigation plans for use of the funds, the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños coalition is asking governors to fully fund and implement plans that replace diesel school buses with zero-emission school buses.

“I’d rather drive my three daughters to three different schools each morning than to have them ride in a diesel school bus,” said Martha Favela, a New Mexico mom and promotora with Juntos: Our Air, Our Water. “Even just dropping them off at school, we pass the buses idling and breathe in the diesel fumes. Children go to school to learn, not to get sick from pollution. I ask Gov. Martinez to use funds from the Volkswagen settlement to invest in electric school buses, because our families deserve to breathe clean air.”

Favela’s second daughter suffers from severe breathing problems, as does her husband, who drives diesel trucks for a living. Both have chest pains and cough through the night. Learning that other families face similar problems drove Favela to join Juntos as a volunteer and later an organizer.

In New Mexico, approximately 166,000 children ride diesel school buses each day, facing exposure to dangerous toxins that can cause asthma, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. More than one in 11 children suffer from asthma statewide. Nationally, asthma attacks are the number one chronic condition for children and the top reason for school absences.

The rally was organized by the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, which includes local environmental groups Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund and Juntos: Our Air, Our Water as well as other groups across the country affiliated with LCV’s Chispa program. Non-profit advocacy groups across the country have supported the campaign, including Moms Clean Air Force.

“Today I speak on behalf of over one million parents who have joined Moms Clean Air Force, because protecting our kids from dangerous air pollution is essential to their future,” said Celerah Hewes, a New Mexico mom. “Over the last eight years, our state has been running in the wrong direction — weakening oil and gas air quality requirements at a time that we need stronger standards. New Mexicans deserve better. Our children deserve better. All Americans deserve reasonable clean air protections at the state and federal level that reduce pollution. We demand our elected officials consider our climate and our children.”

Since 2017, the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign has called on Governor Martinez to use funds from New Mexico’s $18 million Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation settlement to replace dirty diesel school buses that put the futures of children at risk. The campaign wants funding to prioritize those disproportionately affected by air pollution, including low-income and communities of color.”

“Latino communities are deeply affected by air pollution, more often living near sources of pollution and breathing unhealthy levels of dirty air,” said Alex Aispuro, a youth promotora with Chispa Nevada. “We are more likely to suffer from illnesses caused by our environment because of this. If we want this to change, we have to raise our voice and speak up. That is why I am here today to support the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, so other kids like my friend Robert can access breathable air. I urge Governor Sandoval and governors across the nation to support this campaign and invest in electric school buses.”

Aispuro’s 19-year-old best friend Robert has suffered from asthma for years, often missing school for doctor’s appointments because of his illness. He has ridden diesel buses to and from school since he was 11 years old.

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Video:

https://www.facebook.com/events/2087206104881515/permalink/2107540752848050/

https://www.facebook.com/events/2087206104881515/permalink/2107560646179394/

Photos available here. Photo Credit: Mabel Gonzalez

About Juntos
Juntos: Our Air, Our Water is an environmental justice program of the non-profit Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund in partnership with LCV’s Chispa. We strengthen Latino voices in New Mexico to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink–for the health of our families and our future–through the development of Latino leaders who are committed to organize and mobilize for healthy and strong communities. Visit facebook.com/JuntosNM.

Contact: Liliana Castillo, Liliana@CVNM.org, 575-219-9619