Yellow School Buses Go Green


EUGENE — Eugene School District 4J’s last few “dirty diesel” school buses have been replaced with new low-emissions models, thanks to some help from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The 13 new clean diesel buses have lower emissions, better fuel efficiency, and enhanced safety features. 

The district’s fleet of school buses is now devoid of the older, dirtier version of diesel buses. Now all 122 school buses are equipped with exhaust control technology, bringing the school district in compliance with the Oregon statutory requirement for clean diesel engines — far ahead of the 2025 deadline. 

The 13 new school buses are paid for in part through DEQ’s Diesel Bus Replacement grant program. The agency’s goal is to replace at least 450 dirty diesel school buses using its Clean Diesel Engine Fund over the next several years. The fund is supported through the VW Diesel Emissions Settlement, with the remaining cost of the buses covered by the Oregon Department of Education.

“Scrapping older diesel vehicles and replacing them with new, lower emitting vehicles will result in significant improvements to public health and the environment in Oregon,” said DEQ’s Director, Richard Whitman. “This program is a great example of DEQ collaborating with local communities to inspire innovative action and achieve our shared goals.” 

The major problem with diesel engines is the air pollution they emit, including a complex mixture of toxic gases and fine particles. These pollutants increase the risk of cancer and can cause many health problems, including heart, respiratory and neurological diseases. Improved technology in the clean diesel engines significantly reduces the amount of pollution associated with the diesel engine. In addition, several studies have documented health benefits for students from lower emissions buses, including improved lung function and reduced incidence of bronchitis and asthma, with resulting decreases in absenteeism. 

“This project was an important opportunity to decrease air pollution while simultaneously reducing operational costs and improving student safety and fuel efficiency,” said Chris Ellison, director of 4J Transportation. 

DEQ plans to distribute more clean diesel buses to school districts throughout the state over the next several years. The Clean Diesel Engine Fund is supported through the VW Diesel Emissions Settlement, which finances eligible pollution mitigation projects. 

“We’re excited to see the positive impact cleaner transportation technology has on our airshed,”  said Merlyn Hough, director of Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.

By Jennifer Flynt, Chief Public Information Officer at DEQ

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The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon's air, land and water.

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