Chispa Maryland Launches Clean Buses for Healthy Niños Campaign

Ramon Palencia-Calvo, rpcalvo@mdlcv.org, 202-531-5091 | Betsy Lopez-Wagner, blopez-wagner@lcv.org, 202-454-4570  

Initiative calls for earmarking of VW Settlement Dollars for Zero-Emissions School Buses  

Annapolis, MD – Today, Chispa Maryland launches Clean Buses for Healthy Niños, a campaign calling on Governor Larry Hogan and decision makers to put the health of Maryland’s youth and communities first by using the state’s $71 million Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust funds for clean energy, zero-emission school buses.

Volkswagen cheated federal emissions tests and polluted the air we breathe by emitting pollutants that increase respiratory illnesses and further the effects of climate change. Chispa Maryland proposes that these dollars should be reinvested in local communities and school districts, especially those in low income and communities of color where students and families are most at risk of breathing dirty air and disproportionately suffer from pollution. 

“Maryland Latino communities, families and children have been under siege from VW’s toxic pollutants for almost 10 years —we’re ready to change that by making sure Governor Hogan knows our communities want clean energy school buses,” said Ramon Palencia-Calvo, program director of Chispa Maryland, a community organizing program of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “This will change the lives of the 620,000 Maryland children who breathe dirty diesel air every day riding the bus to school. We need clean buses in the communities where Latino families live, work and play – it’s time for Maryland’s governor to act.” 

“Exposure to traffic-related air pollution including particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and other air toxics can increase the risk of asthma, heart disease, stroke, infant mortality, and cancer in low-income communities and communities of color,” said Dr. Sacoby Wilson, assistant professor at the School of Public Health – University of Maryland-College Park.  “The cumulative impacts of these air pollutants in combination with other environmental hazards creates environmental injustice. These resources if invested properly can help overburdened communities seek energy equity and become healthier and more resilient.”

Wilson is an environmental health scientist with expertise in environmental justice and environmental health disparities.

Prince George’s County resident Tyrese Robinson is a special education teacher in the district and mother of a daughter recently diagnosed with severe Asthma, hospitalized on three separate occasions. She’s supporting the campaign and motivating others to speak out to create change for school children across the state via a zero-emissions fleet.

“I know firsthand that many of our children, particularly and disproportionately those of color who are riding the buses, have to be in a school bus for an extended amount of time – not including the time the buses are idling outside of school during pick up and drop offs. My concern is in reference to the health ramifications,” said Robinson. “Our children are literally packed into a box on these school buses where they are exposed to different kinds of harmful emissions which can trigger asthma, bronchitis and different allergies – or worse. I had to take my daughter off school buses and seek other types of transportation for her.”

Chispa Maryland is a community organizing program of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters in coordination with the League of Conservation Voters’ Chispa program. 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. Find out more at www.lcv.org/chispa or follow us @ChispaLcv and @ChispaMaryland on Twitter and use the hashtag #CleanRide4Kids

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