Coalition asks school bus drivers, students' parents to avoid idling
Sept. 15 2015
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Office of Education again has accepted a challenge to cut school bus emissions by eliminating idling and by encouraging parents to do so as well.
Michael Mower, Gov. Gary Herbert's deputy chief of staff, read a statement from the governor Tuesday declaring September 2015 and the 2015-16 winter season "Idle Free in Utah."
The Idle Free in Utah challenge began in 2007 and was dedicated to getting bus drivers to avoid idling for more than a few seconds. Utah Clean Cities Executive Director Robin Erickson said the challenge has saved 92,000 gallons of fuel and kept millions of pounds of pollutants out of the air.
This is the fifth year the Utah State Office of Education has participated in the challenge from the Utah Clean Air Partnership and Utah Clean Cities Coalition.
The governor's declaration extends the challenge to parents, asking them to stop idling while waiting in school dropoff/pickup zones.
"This declaration, I believe, will help get drivers in the habit of turning off their engines when idling for an extended period of time," said Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton.
Handy sponsored legislation earlier this year that sought to help school districts replace diesel buses older than 2002. HB49 passed in the House but stalled in the Senate.
Handy said a revised bill will call for a $10 million "endowment" from the state general fund and set a formula that will decide the amount a school district would have to match to get money from the endowment to replace old diesel buses with new compressed natural gas buses. Last year, HB49 called for $20 million from the state education fund.
Handy said 500 of the 2,500 buses in Utah are 2002 or older and represent a large source of pollution.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said the challenge has also been extended to a coffee shop she frequents. Members of the community often encourage each other not to idle while using the coffee shop drive-thru, she said.
"The peer pressure does make a difference," Chavez-Houck said. "We keep an eye on each other."
A single vehicle puts 3 pounds of pollution into the air every month, she said.
"Just think about that line of cars that is outside your child's school," Chavez-Houck said.
"If we all do little, we can all achieve a lot," Mower said. "We do much better with voluntary compliance than we do passing a lot of new laws."
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