Diesel engines are used throughout Oregon and the United States because of their reputation for reliability, durability, power and fuel efficiency. But diesel exhaust is considered a health risk, particularly in urban areas close to highways and major roads. In Oregon, heavy-duty diesel trucks and diesel construction equipment are the largest source of diesel exhaust.
For school districts, the diesel emissions issue affects buses with older diesel engines. In 2007, a bill was passed that requires school buses be:
Retrofitted with 2007 or later engines by Jan. 1, 2017.
Replaced with buses manufactured on or after Jan. 1, 2007, by 2025. The replaced buses may not be used for transportation of any type.
The Oregon Department of Education adopted administrative rules that prevent any new buses from entering the state that do not meet the 2007 engine emission standards. The ODE rule also clarified that retrofitting is no longer an option after Jan. 1, 2017. Buses must be replaced.
SB 1008-A would extend the retrofit deadline from Jan. 1, 2017, to 2025 and add grants and loans for diesel engine replacements to the permissible uses of the Clean Diesel Engine Fund. The bill would authorize the state of Oregon to receive funds under the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Agreement and would specify the allocation of these funds for grants to reduce emissions from diesel engines, which includes resources to replace or retrofit buses.
Chris Ellison, Eugene School District transportation director and past president of the Oregon Pupil Transportation Association, testified in support of the amendments.
“The current January 1, 2017, date has resulted in very far-reaching implications for all public and private school districts, organizations and businesses,” he said. “Oregon Pupil Transportation Association firmly believes that school buses must be looked at and supported for the safety and health of our children. The Volkswagen Mitigation Fund is an incredible opportunity and an excellent start for replacing these aging diesel buses.”
Other industry stakeholders who testified on the bill are still working on a few technical details before the bill will be heard again. The bill is expected to move out of committee within two weeks.