NRDC Hails Clean-Fuel Bus Agreement: Governor Pataki Leads MTA to Dump Dirty Diesels

"A once-in-a-generation Earth Day gift for New York" caps seven-year NRDC campaign

(New York, April 12, 2000) -- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) today hailed Governor George E. Pataki's announcement that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would commit to a fleet-wide strategy to drastically reduce emissions from its fleet of over 4,200 diesel buses, and would increase sharply its commitment to cleaner fuels like compressed natural gas (CNG).

Coming less than one week before New York City's celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of Earth Day, the announcement caps a seven-year campaign by NRDC to clean up New York City's diesel bus fleet.

"This is an important event in the history of cleaning up the nation's diesel vehicles, and it would not have happened without Governor Pataki's direct personal involvement and environmental leadership, said John Adams, NRDC President. "Cleaning up the MTA's buses will be a fantastic Earth Day gift for every New Yorker."

The announcement followed last week's budget agreement. After the budget agreement was reached, pressure built to find a resolution to the outstanding issue of the MTA's diesel bus fleet. The historic agreement reached today includes commitments to: (1) eliminate dirty diesels, and to create the world's cleanest transit fleet; (2) add 300 CNG buses and 250 hybrid-electric buses to the fleet and build three new depots that are CNG-compatible; (3) use low-sulfur diesel fuel and install advanced emission controls on over 3,000 remaining diesel buses by the end of 2003; (4) accelerate the phase-out of the oldest, dirtiest diesels in the fleet; (5) establish a public process led by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to create a vehicle-based emissions standard that would require all new bus purchases to meet CNG emissions levels, regardless of the fuel used, and to establish New York State's first emissions testing facility for diesel buses and trucks.

"This program is a comprehensive assault on dirty diesels, and sends a clear message to the diesel industry that it needs to eliminate its toxic soot emissions or they will be out of the transit bus business in New York," said Richard Kassel, NRDC Senior Attorney and coordinator of its Dump Dirty Diesels Campaign. "Diesel pollution is New York's number-one local air pollution threat, and the MTA's bus plan is now a central and critical part of the solution."

Traditional diesel vehicles emit huge quantities of asthma attack-inducing particulate matter, more than 40 carcinogens, and high quantities of smog-forming nitrogen oxides. In contrast, CNG buses emit virtually no particulate matter, few toxic chemicals, and many fewer smog-forming nitrogen oxides. Hybrid-electric buses are a new introduction to the MTA's fleets, and they will be vigorously tested by DEC under the new program, with the goal of matching or surpassing CNG performance.

"On behalf of our more than 400,000 members, we sincerely thank Governor Pataki for his efforts and leadership," noted Richard Kassel. "We also thank Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly members Richard L. Brodsky, Alexander B. Grannis, Catherine T. Nolan, and dozens of other members who called for cleaner buses in recent months. Further, we thank Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno for his support of the final plan. Finally, we thank the MTA and NYC Transit leadership for developing a plan that will increase bus service and meet environmental goals."

"Everybody worked hard to find common ground, and we're thrilled with the results—results that will mean cleaner air for every New Yorker, a huge reduction in emissions that have been linked to asthma and cancer, improved bus service throughout the City, and a commitment to making the MTA's buses the home of the world's cleanest bus technologies," said Richard Kassel.

NRDC's Dump Dirty Diesels Campaign has been working to clean up the MTA bus fleet since 1993. In 1995, the Campaign sued and won the right to run advertisements on the backs and sides of MTA buses that read "Standing behind this bus could be more dangerous than standing in front of it" and "Meet New York's Heaviest Smoker." In 1996 and 1997, NRDC was a leading participant in a task force process that led to the MTA's first commitment to clean-fuel buses, comprised of three depots and 500 buses.

NRDC's Dump Dirty Diesels Campaign goals were supported by a broad coalition of environmental, civic, business and labor organizations. Steve Weber of the Regional Plan Association, a close collaborator of NRDC's Campaign, said, "The leadership of the Governor and the Assembly has played a crucial role in securing this landmark agreement to improve air quality that has been long sought by New York City's neighborhoods. The significance of this agreement will go beyond the tailpipes of MTA's buses. Government agencies like the MTA will continue to play an important role in making clean fuel technology more economically viable for private sector vehicles."

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 400,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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