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Cleaner school buses could improve the state's air pollution levels, but will New Mexico opt to spend its share of the Volkswagen emissions settlement to support that goal? (Children's Clean Air Network)

Should NM Lawsuit Windfall be Spent on Cleaner School Buses?

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A New Mexico group plans to advocate for cleaner school buses in meetings this week to discuss how the state’s money from the Volkswagen settlement should be spent.

New Mexico’s share of the federal settlement is $18 million after Volkswagen was caught cheating on federal emission laws.

Molly Sanders, program director of the Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund, says at the meeting Monday night in Albuquerque, her group will share that it wants to see the money spent transitioning diesel school buses to electric.

She says children with asthma deserve cleaner air, and electric school buses would help.

“When parents are sending their children to school on, you know, a school bus that’s polluting the air with diesel emissions and children’s lungs are still developing when they’re in school, it can contribute to an increase and uptick in asthma rates,” Sanders states.

The New Mexico Environment Department is required to spend the Volkswagen settlement money to support a reduction in nitrogen oxide levels.

The public meetings are Monday night in Albuquerque, in Farmington on Wednesday and in Gallup on Thursday. Times and locations are online

More than half of New Mexico’s 300,000 students ride buses every day in 89 school districts. According to some estimates, more than 1 in 11 New Mexico children suffers from asthma.

Victor Nevarez, youth organizer for the group Juntos: Our Air, Our Water, says for one of his siblings, a cleaner bus would be a big improvement.

“For my sister, she has asthma and she’s been dealing with it for, like, four years now,” he relates. “She goes to school on a diesel bus everyday – she’s had to miss several school days because she goes to the emergency room, and she wouldn’t have to miss as many school days.”

Experts estimate there are 250,000 older school buses still in operation across the U-S, with exhaust systems spewing pollutants that can adversely affect children’s health.

Author: Roz Brown, Public News Service (NM)

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