Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023 | 2 a.m.
My family and I started volunteering with Chispa Nevada’s Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign in 2016, calling for Nevada lawmakers and school districts to start investing in clean, electric school buses. Chispa (Spanish for “spark”) is an offshoot of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) that seeks to create healthier environments in Latinx communities and communities of people of color.
After years of pushing for a #CleanRide4Kids, our family celebrated when we heard that the first electric school bus had finally arrived at the Clark County School District. Ever since we learned about the dangers of diesel pollution, we’ve been waiting to witness this transition.
Not many people know that diesel school buses pollute our air with toxins that can cause serious lung and heart problems. Whether they’re idling or running, diesel school buses emit dangerous fumes that children are especially vulnerable to because their lungs and brains are still developing.
Diesel exhaust is considered a carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Almost all school buses in Nevada, and across the country, run on diesel.
When our family learned this, we became extremely concerned. Our son suffers from asthma, and the idea that the ride to school was making it worse kept me up at night.
My son isn’t the only one; 1 in 12 children in Nevada has asthma. African American and Latino children are more likely to end up hospitalized or die due to asthma complications. We’re also three times more likely than our white counterparts to live in the neighborhoods that fail all three of the American Lung Association’s air quality grades. For low-income Nevadans and families like mine who lack access to quality health care, diesel and other transportation pollution can be deadly. We can’t put our children through this.
Electric school buses don’t emit any tailpipe pollution, making them safer for children to ride. While they have a higher upfront cost, they save school districts thousands of dollars a year in fuel and maintenance costs. Electric school buses also don’t emit harmful pollutants that are hurting our environment and making climate change worse.
That’s why we joined Chispa Nevada in its efforts to speed along the transition to electric buses. In 2017, we encouraged the state government to use funding from the Volkswagen Settlement to invest in electric school buses. In 2019, we pushed the Nevada Legislature to make school buses eligible for electric vehicle funding from NV Energy. That NV Energy and Volkswagen settlement funding has now been used to purchase these first two electric school buses in Nevada. Another 25 electric school buses are on the way, thanks to the federal Clean School Bus Program that our national partners also fought to create and fund. The transition to a #CleanRide4Kids in Clark County, and across the country, is beginning.
We’re thrilled to see it, and our family can’t wait until all our children are riding to school in a bus that isn’t polluting our air. But this transition won’t be equitable if these electric school buses aren’t placed first in the neighborhoods and school routes with the dirtiest air. If we’re going to clean up our air, we should start with the areas that have the worst air quality.
It’s time to prioritize public health and clean air and switch to buses that will protect, not endanger, our most vulnerable populations. Our family joins Chispa Nevada in calling on CCSD to establish a plan for the complete transition of its fleet to electric school buses, and to roll out these zero-emission buses in the neighborhoods and schools most affected by transportation pollution. Our children deserve to breathe clean air.
Angeles Sanchez is a Las Vegas resident and volunteer with Chispa Nevada, a program of the League of Conservation Voters that seeks to create healthier environments in Latinx communities and communities of people of color.