Chispa Arizona Rallies with Local, State, Federal Leaders and Phoenix Community Members, Calls for Gov. Ducey to Invest VW Dollars in Electric School Buses

Betsy Lopez-Wagner, blopez-wagner@lcv.org, 202-454-4570

Phoenix, AZ – Chispa Arizona was joined by Phoenix school district leaders, state and federal officials, and a wide-range of progressive leaders and community members in a back-to-school event to demand Governor Ducey replace the state’s diesel-fueled bus fleets with electric, zero-emission buses.

The community rally against diesel pollution was part of the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, which calls on Governor Ducey to use Arizona’s $57 million share of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to replace the state’s fleet of diesel-powered school buses, which are exposing kids to dirty air and cancer-causing pollutants. Volkswagen was forced to establish the trust after admitting its vehicles cheated federal emission tests, polluting the air in Arizona and across the nation for years. (#CleanRide4Kids)

A crowd of 50 people, which included parents and students, gathered Thursday morning in front of the Arizona Capitol Building to share the effects of dirty diesel school bus emissions on their children and communities, as well as the economic benefits for school districts in switching to electric vehicles.

Chispa AZ Director Masavi Perea speaks during a #cleanRide4Kids back-to-school rally.

“Today, I am here because our community is very disappointed that we cannot have a basic need like clean air,” said Chispa AZ Volunteer Herlinda Calderon, a mother of four, who has a daughter with severe asthma. “I am asking Gov. Ducey to use the money from Volkswagen settlement for clean buses.  It is very urgent that our children can breathe clean air and live in a clean environment and free of asthma.”

“This is no time to use this $57 million to try to further any private industry initiatives,” said U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva, District 3. “So let’s use that money correctly – providing of our children, providing for education, and transportation to and from that becomes a zero polluting emission vehicles.”

“I’m one of the lucky ones who have health insurance, preventive and emergency medication,” said John B. Gomez, president of the Cartwright Independent School District, who suffers from asthma. “Our polluted air affects our most vulnerable in our community – many of whom don’t have health insurance or preventive medications, as I do.”

“Chispa is doing a wonderful job of reminding us all that the attacks on our environment, the pollution, the climate change, the lack of clean air and water, have created a legacy of environmental injustice that continue to plague our communities,” said State Senator Martin Quezada, who represents West Phoenix. “Get involved, reaching out to the governor and tell him to get involved and take advantage of the opportunity he has to get involved. I’m calling on the governor to work us to make good use of this VW settlement.”

“Our children deserve to grow up in a healthy environment,” said Alejandra Gomez, director of Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA). “Currently, West and South Phoenix are the most polluted areas of the Phoenix Valley. We stand outside the governor’s office and ask why is he not standing with our children.”

Other speakers included: Masavi Perea, Chispa AZ, Axel Vargas, State Representatives Richard Andrade, Sara King – AZ interfaith Network, Sandy Bahr – Sierra Club, Jason Anthony – PATCH, Mariah Lauro of Phoenix Allies for Community Health, Channel Powe, president of the Arizona School Boards Association Black Caucus, Sarra Tekola – NAACP Arizona chapter.

Other groups in attendance:  Puente Movement, Case, Lucha, Somos America, Promise AZ, Mi Familia Vota and Arizona Stands, Council on American Islamic Relations

Background: Chispa AZ launched the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign on April 6 to demand these dollars to be invested in electric buses for children across the state, especially those in low income and communities of color where students and families are most at risk for suffering the effects of pollution.

Chispa Arizona is a community organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters. We build the capacity of Latino families to influence policy makers and pressure polluters to protect communities’ rights to clean air and water, healthy neighborhoods and a safe climate for generations to come.

Learn more about Chispa Arizona at www.lcv.org/chispa or follow us @ChispaLcv on Twitter.

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