Press Release

LANDOVER, MD (November 6, 2003) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is providing financial support for the installation of pollution control devices on school buses in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and other jurisdictions in Maryland, the acting secretary of the department announces.

Kendl P. Philbrick, the acting secretary, said, “The Ehrlich-Steele Administration has made health and environmental issues among the state’s highest priorities,” Philbrick said. “This effort will have both environmental and health benefits.”

The acting secretary also announced that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has launched a pilot program to create Environmental Benefits Districts in communities where citizens may not have the resources to address environmental problems. One of the first districts, he said, will be in central Prince George’s County.

Philbrick said that money for the retrofit project comes from a settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO). Under the terms of the settlement, VEPCO is funding pollution reduction programs in Maryland and other states.

“Not only will the amount of pollutants entering the atmosphere be reduced, but the air that thousands of children breathe on the buses every day will be cleaner,” Philbrick said.

Retrofitting the buses with diesel oxidation catalysts could reduce particulate emissions by 20 percent and hydrocarbon emissions by 50 percent.

Work on the school buses could begin as early as spring 2004. The MDE funding could also be used for other pollutant mitigations programs for school buses – for example, for reimbursing counties for the additional cost of low-sulfur diesel fuel.

Philbrick described the Environmental Benefits District (EBD) initiative as an example of proactive government on behalf of communities. An EBD brings together government and stakeholders – citizens and business, for example. It identifies the range of issues that need to be addressed and focuses financial, technical, regulatory, administrative and policy resources to solve problems.

How an EBD would work

A district can be a single town, several communities, or a region (of a county, for instance). Working with one or more state agencies (as well as local agencies), the district would identify problems that needed to be addressed, whether local health issues, a lack of economic development, the existence of brownfield sites or decaying infrastructure. The lead state agency would work with other agencies to identify programs that could help solve the district’s problems.

“This is a way for government to be proactive in helping communities identify problems and find solutions, rather than leaving it to citizens to figure out who to call,” Philbrick said. “It is also a way to make sure that government sets its priorities wisely and uses its resources efficiently.”

Philbrick made the announcements at a community environmental dialogue session in Landover last evening. The session, the third of four being held around the state, was organized by MDE and the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities to hear citizens’ environmental concerns. The final hearing is scheduled for Easton on Nov. 12.