CHARLESTON, WV | November 4, 2021
On Thursday, November 4, advocates gathered at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School to call on Congress to pass funding to spark a transition to zero-emission school buses in West Virginia. The event featured representatives from the Office of Senator Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Senate, the West Virginia House of Delegates, the West Virginia Office of Energy, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, as well as local physician and student voices.
During the press conference, speakers called attention to the benefits of zero-emission school buses for students’ health and the communities they serve. The press conference was held against a back-drop of a made-in-America Thomas Built electric school bus, as Congress is negotiating investments in critical infrastructure and other programs. Photos of the event are available here.
Speakers at the press conference included:
● Dr. Dan Foster, M.D., retired Physician Administrator for Charleston Area Medical Center, and former member of the West Virginia Senate
● State Senator Richard D. Lindsay II
● Brian Aluise, Regional Coordinator, Office of Senator Joe Manchin III
● WV Delegate Mike Pushkin
● Kelly Bragg, Energy Development Specialist, WV Office of Energy
● Fred Albert, President, American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia
● Yuan Uy, senior at Parkersburg High School, Parkersburg, WV
● J.R. Ash, 9th grader at Cabell-Midland High School, Huntington, WV
“During my 44-year career as a physician, I saw firsthand the damage that poor air quality can do to children's health, particularly to their still-developing brains and respiratory systems,” said former West Virginia Senator and retired Physician Administrator for Charleston Area Medical Center, Dr. Dan Foster, M.D. “Yet this is nearly impossible for the more than 250,000 public school students in our state, who are exposed on a daily basis to dangerous air pollution from diesel-powered school buses. Very simply, when kids are exposed at a young age to elevated degrees of air pollution, it can make them more susceptible to many chronic diseases later in life, particularly those affecting their heart and lungs.”
“Not only will [this transition] be a benefit to our students, but it will result in a cleaner environment and will result in better air quality. And this will create jobs,” said State Senator Richard D. Lindsay II. “It's one of these situations in politics that you find a win-win-win scenario where you can help our students, you can clean the environment, and you can create jobs. This will lead to union worker jobs because it’ll take electrical workers to not only maintain these buses, but to build the power stations that provide power to these buses.”
“I think everyone here gathered today wants the best for every child in this building, and all school buildings across this land. What a better way to take care of them than to give them cleaner air to breathe,” said Fred Albert, Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers, and President of AFT-West Virginia. “…Anything that we can do to make life better for our citizens, our children, the most precious cargo that we put on these buses every day, we're all for…I'm proud to stand here as the president of AFT West Virginia, Vice President of AFT National, and say: We support this. We need to do all that we can to make sure these are on the road in every county in West Virginia.”
“More than one-third of students in the United States take a school bus to school, and 95% of school buses on the roads today are diesel-powered,” said J.R. Ash, a 9th grader at Cabell-Midland High School in Huntington. “I personally ride school buses quite a bit. I'm in my high school's marching band, and each Friday, we travel to our school's football games, and on most Saturdays, we travel to our band competitions around the state. These bus rides can be four or five hours long, consistently putting harmful chemicals into the air that we as students breathe. By transitioning to electric school buses, West Virginia School districts could save about $6,500 each year in fuel and maintenance costs for every diesel bus they replace with an electric bus.”
Children are especially vulnerable to poor air quality, as their brains and respiratory systems are still developing. Diesel exhaust exposure is linked to serious health effects, including asthma attacks and diminished brain function. The nearly 34,000 kids in West Virginia who suffer from asthma are particularly vulnerable. Additionally, students from low-income communities are more likely to depend on school buses, meaning the more than 67,000 West Virginia children growing up in poverty bear more of the burden of pollution from diesel buses.
The American Lung Association’s recent polling shows that 60% of West Virginia voters believe that it is important to invest in zero-emission vehicles, like school buses, that will reduce air pollution around children.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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