Tucson Mayor Romero, Pima County Supervisor Grijalva, and American Lung Association Call for Federal Funding to Make the Switch to Zero-Emission School Buses

Last week, education officials and health experts joined Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, Pima County Supervisor and Tucson Unified School District Board President Adelita Grijalva, and the American Lung Association in a press conference at C.E. Rose Elementary School in Tucson to call for the need for federal infrastructure funding for zero-emission school buses. 

During the event, speakers discussed the urgent need to transition diesel school bus fleets to zero-emission buses. Health experts also drew attention to the benefits of zero-emission school buses for children’s health, as well as the disproportionate impact of diesel bus pollution on communities of color and low-income communities.

Speakers at the event included:

  • Tucson Mayor Regina Romero
  • Pima County Supervisor and Tucson Unified School District Board President Adelita Grijalva
  • JoAnna Strother, Senior Director of Advocacy, American Lung Association in Arizona
  • Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo, Tucson Unified School District
  • Lynn Gerald, PhD, MSPH, Professor & Endowed Chair, Zuckerman Family Prevention and Life Style Medicine, University of Arizona

Exposure to diesel exhaust increases the risk of a wide range of health outcomes including asthma attacks, cancer, and premature deaths. The impact of air pollution from school buses is especially profound in Black and Hispanic communities, who are exposed to disproportionately high levels of particle pollution, and children from low-income communities, who are more likely to depend on school buses.

Recent polling shows that there is broad support among Arizona voters for transitioning to zero-emission buses and reducing air pollution around children.

Select quotes from the press conference are listed below. To arrange interviews with any of the speakers, please contact [email protected].

TUCSON MAYOR REGINA ROMERO: “Just last week, the city of Tucson launched our first five zero-emission electric buses thanks to the funds provided by the federal government. It is important that we make similar investments to electrify our school buses and to protect our beautiful babies that use our school buses to get to school.”

“Air pollution is both an equity issue, an environmental issue, and a public health issue. The electrification of school buses and the entire transportation sector is a critical step that we need to take to protect students, the environment, and our entire community.”

“We’re hoping that Congress acts and that we can come to an agreement as to how to put to work a very necessary investment.”

JOANNA STROTHER (Senior Director of Advocacy, American Lung Association in Georgia): “Children have developing lungs and brains that put them at greater risk of permanent harm from many air pollutants that come from burning diesel.”

“Transitioning the nation’s school bus fleet from diesel to electric power is more than just an infrastructure issue, it is an environmental justice issue. Latino, Black, and American Indian children are disproportionately affected by air pollution as well as have higher rates of asthma.”

SUPERVISOR ADELITA GRIJALVA (Pima County Supervisor and Tucson Unified School District Board President): “What we’re doing here is really asking Congress, advocating for the Build Back Better funding, to help improve the infrastructure opportunities that we have here in school districts for electric buses.”

“[Burning diesel] increases the likelihood of asthma, cancer, premature deaths in children and continuing this trend is completely unacceptable.”

“I think it’s really important for us to be partnering with the American Lung Association, with the mayor, county [and] school districts because we have to do everything we can to advocate for change.”

SUPERINTENDENT DR. GABRIEL TRUJILLO (Tucson Unified School District): “In our fleet right now, we have 295 buses and these 295 buses have already—in October of 2021, only two months into the school year—logged 500,000 miles. That is 500,000 miles producing diesel exhaust, a known carcinogen.”

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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