BOSTON - December 18 - Environmental Defense praised Massachusetts' officials for taking a strong step forward today in reducing the public health burden of diesel pollution, by dedicating $22.5 million to clean up emissions from publicly owned transit and school buses (see advisory below).
Diesel pollution aggravates symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases, and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Massachusetts has the highest health risk from diesel soot in New England. Dirty diesel causes tens of thousands of lost work days, thousands of asthma attacks, hundreds of heart attacks and premature deaths annually.
"This action to clean up school bus emissions is a winner for kids, parents and taxpayers in the Commonwealth," said Gwen Ruta, Massachusetts Regional Director at Environmental Defense and former director of external affairs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Every dollar invested in filtering out pollutants in diesel exhaust yields at least $12 in health benefits, making this a very cost-effective way to cut air pollution. This is a great first step toward a comprehensive solution to dirty diesel."
Ruta said that the next step s should be to address emissions from the construction sector by passing House Bill 4719 (see http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/house/ht04pdf/ht04719.pdf ). It targets emissions from construction equipment like backhoes and cranes that contribute to hot spots of pollution in urban areas and near construction sites.
"There are 14 days left in this legislative session," Ruta added. "The legislature has a chance to take the Administration's actions one step this year further by cleaning up emissions from the construction equipment. This move would give the private sector the incentives it needs to lead the way, and bring the cleanest technologies to more diesel fleets now."
"Massachusetts needs a comprehensive plan for reducing diesel pollution, and the announcement today is a move in the right direction," Ruta concluded. "The sooner a comprehensive program is in place, the sooner we can all start to breathe easier."