School Bus Company to Implement Anti-Idling Program and Pay Penalties under the Clean Air Act

As part of a settlement for alleged excessive diesel idling in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Durham School Services will commit to reduce idling from its school bus fleet of 13,900 buses operating in 30 states.  The anti-idling project is the result of an EPA New England enforcement action to address excessive school bus idling and reduce school children’s exposure to diesel pollution.

Durham School Services will pay a $90,000 penalty and perform environmental projects valued at $348,000.

In fall 2010, an EPA inspector observed Durham school buses idling for extended periods of time in school bus lots in Storrs, Conn., Worcester, Mass. and Johnston, R.I.  The inspector observed some buses idling for close to two hours before departing the bus lot to pick up school children. The state idling regulations in question, which are enforceable by EPA, generally limit idling in Connecticut to three minutes and in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to five minutes.

Under the settlement, Durham will implement a national training and management program to prevent excessive idling from its entire fleet of school buses. Through this program, Durham will train its drivers to comply with state and local anti-idling regulations and to avoid excessive idling. Durham will require supervisors to monitor idling in school bus lots, post anti-idling signs in areas where drivers congregate, and notify the school districts it serves of its anti-idling policy.

In addition, Durham will replace 30 older school buses (model years 1999 and 2000) with new buses that are equipped with state-of-the-art pollution controls. 

“Pollution from diesel vehicles is a serious health concern in New England and across the country,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Children, especially those suffering from asthma or other respiratory ailments, are particularly vulnerable to diesel exhaust.  EPA is pleased with this settlement, which will dramatically limit school bus idling and help protect the health of school children in dozens of communities across the country.”

Idling diesel engines emit pollutants which can cause or aggravate a variety of health problems including asthma and other respiratory diseases, and the fine particles in diesel exhaust are a likely human carcinogen. Diesel exhaust not only contributes to area-wide air quality problems, but more direct exposure can cause lightheadedness, nausea, sore throat, coughing, and other symptoms. Drivers, school children riding on the buses, facility workers, neighbors and bystanders are all vulnerable.

Idling school buses consume about one-half gallon of fuel per hour. By reducing the idling time of each bus in its fleet by one hour per day, Durham would reduce its fuel use by 1.25 million gallons per year and avoid emitting 28 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

In a separate but related action, EPA recently issued a Clean Air Act Notice of Violation for Ocean State Transit, LLC and STA of Connecticut, Inc., which operate fleets of school buses at a number of different locations in Rhode Island and Connecticut.  The violations cited in the EPA Notice of Violation occurred at Ocean State’s locations in East Greenwich and South Kingstown, R.I. and at STA of Connecticut’s locations in Danbury, Naugatuck, Higganum, Stamford, and Groton, Conn.

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