***Note: this bill has been substituted, this analysis may no longer be valid***
Representative Steve Handy (Republican – Layton) is resurrecting legislation from last year that passed the House but failed to make the cut on the last day of the legislative session, when the Senate failed to give the bill a final vote.
HB 49 – Clean Fuel School Buses and Infrastructure would allow the State Board of Education to give grants to school districts to replace fuel-inefficient “dirty diesel” school buses manufactured before 2002 with buses that use natural gas, propane, or so-called “clean diesel” fuel.
The estimated cost for the legislation is $20 million. While that might seem like a lot of money, Handy told his legislative colleagues during a speech on the House floor last year that it would save much more money in the long run. “If 100 percent of the buses in the top seven districts were converted to natural gas, the total fuel savings over the life of all buses in the fleet would be $58 million,” said Handy.
Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, praised the bill at a House Education Committee meeting last February. He pointed to the damage air pollution from school buses can cause to children and young adults, saying “Studies show that in fact when kids are put on a diesel bus and sent to school, that that kind of exposure to diesel exhaust can actually be demonstrated to show a brain inflammatory response by EEG such that by the time a child arrives to school 45 minutes later they actually show brain inflammation, decreasing their ability to learn, and impairing their ability to remember anything they are taught at school.”
All in all, HB 49 could be a useful, cost-effective bill, and positive component to fighting the incredibly harmful inversion that plagues the Wasatch Front. Though the initial price tag might be a hindrance when it comes to passage, as it was last year, it would begin to address the problem of air pollution while simultaneously upgrading the school bus fleet that carries our children. With an increased budget surplus, lawmakers may be more willing to approve the legislation this year.
To contact Representative Handy, click here or call 801-979-8711.
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