Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah
Picture of Utah

Yellow buses are going 'greener'

School buses in Utah are running cleaner and idling less, which means children who ride them aren't breathing as much dirty air as they were just a few years ago.

Utah Clean Cities Coalition director Robin Erickson told members of the Utah Air Quality Board in their meeting that growing numbers of school bus drivers have committed to idling less while picking up and dropping off their charges. As a result, Erickson added, the drivers are carrying over the practice into their personal lives.

The catalyst for the bus drivers' changes was the Utah Clean School Bus Retrofit Project, which began in 2007 as a collaboration between the Utah Division of Air Quality and Utah Office of Education, school districts and other local public and private agencies. Erickson told board members that another $1 million may be needed to keep the project going.

The groups that are part of the project have secured over $2.5 million in federal, state and local funding to upgrade exhaust systems on older diesel school buses. The upgrades cost about $2,000 per bus and reduce particulate matter, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds coming from the vehicles by 40 to 75 percent.

In the first two phases of the project, both currently under way, exhaust systems on over 600 buses are being upgraded. At least 22 school districts are involved in the initial three phases of the project.

Murray and Washington school districts were among the first Wednesday to begin retrofitting their buses with an oxidation catalyst and crankcase ventilation system intended to reduce tailpipe emissions.

When funding becomes available, as early as September 2009, buses in the Granite and Jordan school districts will receive the upgrades.

Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake, who sponsored the legislation that provided the state funding for cleaning up the school buses, said Wednesday that she is interested in running legislation that will advance interests in cleaning up the state's fleet of vehicles. "We should be an example for the rest of the state," Johnson said.

© 2008 Deseret News Publishing Company

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County OKs vehicle idling policy

A new ordinance designed to save money and reduce air pollution flew through the Salt Lake County Council Tuesday on a unanimous vote.

The anti-idling policy requires drivers of county-owned vehicles to turn off their engines if idling for more than one minute consecutively or more than five cumulative minutes in an hour. The new rule also applies to off-road, heavy-equipment operation, but with slightly less stringentless-stringent guidelines. County fleet management director John Webster said he and other county representatives researched similar policies in other states that have proven effective.

"We looked at the policy results in Maryland, the Puget Sound area of Washington and other places," Webster said. "They've had great success ... and just having a basic policy in place in Salt Lake County should show tremendous returns both financially and environmentally."

Those returns were explored in research submitted to the council by Webster's office before Tuesday's meeting. Two calculation categories compared savings potentials of reducing idling by 15 and 30 minutes per day for three classes of county vehicles. The savings were computed based on reductions for 400 light-duty vehicles (6-cylinder sedan), 40 medium-duty vehicles (1-ton pickup truck), and 40 heavy-duty vehicles (sanitation truck) and a per-gallon fuel price of $3.25.

• 15 minutes/day idling reduction nets more than $100,000 annually.

• 30 minutes/day idling reduction nets more than $200,000 annually.

Emissions reductions, calculated on just a fleet of 400 light-duty vehicles, indicate a 15 minutes/day idling cut would keep 364,000 pounds of CO2 out of the air every year, and 30 minutes/day less idling would reduce particulate by 728,000 pounds.

April Townsend, director of Salt Lake County Administrative Services, said a monitoring test was conducted before establishing the parameters of the new ordinance that found that county vehicles in all three classes idled an average of almost 7 hours a week. This finding, Townsend said, seems to indicate that a goal of 15 or 30 minutes per day is a conservative goal.

County Council members registered some qualms about the cost of monitoring devices — $400 per vehicle plus a monthly data fee — but Townsend clarified on Tuesday that monitoring would be an option left up to department heads and not required under the guidelines of the new ordinance.

Salt Lake County joins Salt Lake City among local governments that have adopted anti-idling rules to reduce fuel costs and CO2 emissions.

© 2008 Deseret News Publishing Company

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Legislator seeks to clean up waterways and air quality

Deseret Morning News
Stephen Speckman
Monday, Feb. 11, 2008
Dishwasher detergent that contains too much phosphorus and school buses that idle too long are in the cross hairs of legislation being proposed by Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake.

Johnson's HB303 aims to prohibit the sale of household dishwasher detergent that contains 0.5 percent or more phosphorus by weight in its ingredients. She hopes approval of her bill will have at least an "incremental" positive impact on Utah's waterways.

"We have to start paying more attention to air quality, to water quality — we have to start preserving our pristine environment, so let's start and not delay any longer," Johnson said in an interview.

Phosphorus introduced artificially and at higher levels into the environment stimulates "excessive" algae growth as it enters bodies of water, eventually reducing the amount of oxygen available for fish and even making those water sources unsuitable for recreation, according to the Sierra Club. Certain amounts of naturally occurring phosphorus, or phosphates, can be found in water sources.

Johnson listed several states that already have passed similar legislation, most notably Virginia, which she said recognized the problem of phosphorus as a water pollutant back in the 1980s. "We're really behind the bandwagon," she said.

Johnson's bill would require that by July 2011, household detergents with 0.5 percent or more phosphorus will not be sold anywhere in Utah.

As for the subject of air quality, Johnson's HB146 puts the sniff test to idling school buses. Part of the problem, she said, is that there are still too many school bus drivers who think they need to leave their vehicles idling for long periods to warm them up.

"That's simply not the case," Johnson said, citing research she has studied on how long it takes buses to warm up.

She wants to clean up the "pretty toxic" air already outside of an idling school bus and the even more dirty air inside an idling bus as the driver and passengers wait to leave.

Efforts outlined in Johnson's bill would be in addition to work being done by the nonprofit group Utah Clean Cities, which is working with Salt Lake City and Washington school districts on pilot programs that are training bus drivers to reduce their idling times. The Cache district soon will be taking part in the grant-funded program.

Johnson's HB146 would create an $817,600 state appropriation to help fund the purchase of new "clean" buses or to cover the $2,100 cost per bus of retrofitting older models to comply with new idling reduction standards. The bill also would require bus drivers to turn off their vehicles when stopped at a school and not start up again until five minutes or less before they depart.

© 2008 Deseret News Publishing Company

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No-idling zone: Schools urge drivers to cut pollution by turning off buses, cars

Deseret Morning News
Jennifer Toomer-Cook
Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008

As you gaze into the gunk blanketing Wasatch Front valleys, take heart: Schools are working to help clean it up — with a simple turn of a key.

Washington, Salt Lake City and Cache school districts are piloting a program, expected to go national next year, to train school bus drivers to kill the engines on idle buses. Students and parents at Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School and Emerson Elementary in Salt Lake City and Morningside Elementary in Granite School District are urging parents to do the same when picking up their kids at the end of the day.

Rowland Hall-St. Mark's parent Sarah Uram says it's as important to student safety as buckling a seat belt.

"Idling is really unnecessary and it's a huge source of pollution and causes a lot of distress for kids with respiratory problems, even for healthy kids," said Uram, a member of Rowland Hall's sustainability committee. "It's a pretty easy thing just to turn your car off."

Vehicles contribute to nearly two-thirds of air pollutants in Utah, Utah Clean Cities director Robin Erickson said. Idling, be it at the drive-through or waiting to load passengers, unnecessarily adds to it.

Consider: If every school bus driver in the country each day killed the engine one minute on trips to school, and one minute in the afternoon pickup, annual emissions would drop by 319 tons of carbon monoxide, 185 tons of nitrogen dioxide and 8.3 tons of small particulate matter, Erickson said. The action also would save 150,000 gallons of fuel and reduce bus maintenance costs by the equivalent of 21 million road miles every year.

State transportation supervisor Murrell Martin wants to do even better than that. He hopes to curtail school bus idling five minutes a day.

The three Utah school districts, partnering with three more in Nevada and Utah Clean Cities, are using a $100,000 grant to develop anti-idling training for bus drivers, a project that also includes the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Energy Foundation, Erickson said. Curriculum premiered in Washington School District last November, in Salt Lake City last month, and is coming soon to Cache school bus drivers. Emissions data will be gathered, and the lessons are expected to become part of the national school bus driver curriculum next year.

Basically, bus drivers could kill the engine during student loading, but not necessarily at stop signs, railroad crossings or red lights, Erickson said.

Bus emissions have been a problem in Utah. The Beehive State received poor rankings in the School Bus Pollution Report Card 2006, researched by the Union of Concerned Scientists and endorsed by the American Lung Association, for hazardous emissions in school bus fleets. The report said the average Utah school bus releases 19.6 pounds of soot into the air each year — 150 percent more pollution per mile than a tractor-trailer truck.

Districts have worked to curb pollution. Jordan District has 44 natural gas buses — about 15 percent of its fleet — Davis is using a retrofits grant to reduce bus emissions, and every new school bus must meet EPA standards for clean emissions.

But cutting idling also can help — and not just on buses.

Moms and dads are being targeted, too, by their own kids.

Morningside and Emerson elementary students have been timing cars to see how long they idle to raise awareness as part of asking parents to kill the engine while they wait.

Morningside's project started two years ago, when students passed out "Stop, Turn Off and Save" stickers and even wrote a no-idling song, sixth-grade teacher Patti White said. Now, students have sent home fliers and are designing a logo for a parking lot kill-the-engine banner.

Rowland Hall developed a campus no-idling policy about 18 months ago, head of school Alan Sparrow said. Teams there are renewing an awareness campaign, with "Curb Your Carbon" rearview mirror tags — a reminder to turn off cars after 10 seconds of idling. The group Utah Moms for Clean Air also has gotten involved in such efforts.

"I think everyone recognizes that the particulates in the air are particularly bad for children," Sparrow said. "You're creating a mini version of that in front of the school when you have 40 or 50 cars lined up, just running."

And when they're not running, it's an obvious difference.

Two weeks into its latest campaign, Morningside parking lot carbon monoxide emissions were cut in half, sixth-grader Danielle Parker said.

"We're liking that."

Those at Coral Cliffs Elementary in St. George let their noses tell the difference.

"It doesn't stink as bad when you go outside," said secretary Julie Bishop. "It's been nice."

© 2008 Deseret News Publishing Company

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