Press Release

SILVER SPRING, MD (September 28, 2005) – Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., and state and local officials today announced a school bus upgrade initiative that will lead to cleaner air in communities across the state at James Hubert Blake High School this morning.

MDE in partnership with Montgomery County will retrofit 125 county school buses with special engine control modules and diesel-oxidation catalysts.

“Each day, more than 600,000 Maryland children use public school buses to get to their classrooms, unnecessarily exposing them to harmful pollutants,” said Governor Ehrlich. “I want Maryland parents to know their child’s health is our top priority. By installing this advanced technology, we are cutting the average child’s exposure to pollutants by as much as 50 percent. This is a dramatic improvement.”

School buses in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties will have the retrofit technologies installed this school year as well. The project is designed to coordinate efforts by MDE and local governments to solve a range of environmental issues--including emissions from diesel engines. Diesel engines emit fine particulate matter. Fine particulate matter can lead to respiratory illnesses in some children. The Governor was joined at the event by Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick, Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan.

“MDE developed the School Bus Retrofit Technology Assistance Program to reduce harmful pollutants emitted from diesel engines and provide a cleaner and healthier commute for students who ride buses everyday. Local air quality will benefit from this action as well,” said MDE Secretary Philbrick.

MDE estimates that 32 tons of carbon monoxide, 4 tons of volatile organic compounds, 2 tons of nitrogen oxides and 200 pounds of particulate matter will be removed from the air each year as a result of the program.

MDE received the funding for this school bus retrofit project from a settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and Dominion Resources, Inc. Under the terms of the settlement, Dominion is funding various pollution reduction programs in Maryland and other states.

MDE awarded nearly $300,000 to Montgomery County Public Schools to reduce emissions from their school buses. Montgomery County Public Schools has retrofitted 88 model year 1997 to 2000 buses with Caterpillar engines with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOC) at a cost of $792 per bus. Thirty-seven model year 1999 to 2003 buses with International engines will be retrofitted with International's Green Diesel Technology that incorporates a low nitrogen oxide calibration engine control module with a DOC at a cost of $2,048 per bus. Those retrofits will begin next month.

Retrofitting Caterpillar diesel engines with diesel oxidation catalysts reduces particulate matter (PM) by 20 percent, carbon monoxide by 40 percent, and volatile organic compounds by 50 percent. Retrofitting the International buses reduces nitrogen oxides by 25 percent, particulate matter by 10 percent, carbon monoxide by 10 percent and volatile organic compounds by 50 percent.

As Blake High’s Dixieland jazz band rapped up an energetic rag, officials also lauded the students and faculty for recent environmental and Hurricane Katrina support activities. Blake High students can enroll in honors and advanced placement environmental science classes and the school has won a county award for its energy conservation efforts. The high school sits on 91.9 acres, much of it forested and surrounded by wetlands that serve as on-site field ecology classrooms. Blake High also treasures its continuing Maryland ‘Green School’ status.

On Sept. 11, Blake High held an outdoor jazz concert as a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The event collected $24,000 for victims of that catastrophic storm that swept across the nation’s Gulf coast states recently.