Environmentalists Hail Metro Decision to Expand Natural Gas Bus Program

WASHINGTON (April 18, 2002) -- The NRDC-Sierra Club Clean Bus Campaign won a major victory today when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) board voted to purchase 250 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses over the next two years and build a natural gas fueling station at its Four-Mile Run facility in Arlington, Virginia. The new buses will join the 164 CNG buses Metro bought last year, which are housed at Metro's Bladensburg facility in NE Washington -- where Metro built its first natural gas fueling station. By 2004, more than a quarter of Metro's fleet -- 414 buses -- will be running on natural gas.

"This is a great Earth Day present for the nation's capital, Maryland and Virginia," said Elliott Negin of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Expanding Metro's natural gas program and retiring its polluting diesel buses is clearly the best choice for our public health and environment. It also is the best choice for strengthening U.S. energy security, since we get nearly all of our natural gas from North America, and more than half of the oil we consume is imported."

The board also approved a proposal to retrofit its remaining diesel buses with particulate traps and run them on low sulfur fuel (30 parts per million), which will cut the amount of soot that comes out of the buses' tailpipes.

"The Metro board's vote today shows it cares as much about the health of the region's residents as it does having a modern, efficient transit system," said Mark Wenzler of the Sierra Club's Washington, D.C., chapter. "The good news is that by purchasing CNG buses, Metro can have both."

The Clean Bus Campaign thanked the Metro board and the bus division staff for strengthening its commitment to the cleanest technology available today, and pointed out that building natural gas infrastructure now will make the system compatible with pollution-free fuel cell bus technology when it becomes commercially viable. The campaign especially thanked Metro Board Chairman Christopher Zimmerman and Vice Chairman Jim Graham for their leadership in establishing the natural gas program a year-and-a-half ago.

The campaign also thanked Rolando Andrewn, executive director of the American Lung Association of D.C., for speaking at the rally the campaign held this morning in front of Metro headquarters; the Sierra Club's Maryland and Virginia chapters; Friends of the Earth; Environmental Defense; Union of Concerned Scientists, Energy and Environmental Study Institute, Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, and the hundreds of Washington area residents who sent faxes and emails to Metro board members urging them to expand the CNG bus program.

Federal and local legislators from the District, Maryland and Virginia also sent letters to Metro this week in support of expanding its CNG bus program. They include U.S. Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Jim Moran (Va.) and Tom Davis (Va.); the Washington, D.C., City Council; Prince Georges County Council Chairman Peter Shapiro; Montgomery County Councilman Phil Andrews; and Arlington County Council members Barbara Favola, Paul Ferguson, Jay Fisette and Charles Monroe. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and the D.C. Health Department also voiced their support for expansion.

The NRDC-Sierra Club Clean Bus Campaign will continue to push Metro to purchase buses that are at least as clean as CNG for all future bus acquisitions and build more natural gas fueling infrastructure at its facilities.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The Sierra Club is a national non-profit organization founded in 1892. Its mission is to explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the Earth; to practice and protect the responsible use of the Earth's ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives. The Sierra Club has more than 700,000 members, including 15,000 in the Washington, D.C. region.