The health of our students is negatively affected depending on the community they live in and the school they attend.
On Long Island, we know all of the ways some of our communities have historically and continue to be cramped in areas oversaturated with polluting infrastructure such as landfills, power plants, waste transfer stations, and incinerators, creating what New York State The Department for Conservation (NYSDEC) calls the potential areas of environmental justice (PEJA).
Our communities such as Wyandanch, North Bellport, Central Islip, Mastics, and Brentwood have the highest asthma emergency room visits in Suffolk County. Our communities like Freeport are seeing trampled on our children’s right to green space, even as the community is fighting!
Another way we can react is to vote Yes to Prop. 1 of this year’s runoff for the Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, which will invest in electric school buses.
In accordance with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) of 2019, which sets out mandates to reduce emissions in New York State by 2050, the Climate Justice Working Group (CJWG) was created. The CJWG is a group of nine members who have been appointed to draw up a policy for disadvantaged communities; this criterion will be used to ensure that at least 35-40% of all climate-related funds are spent in communities identified as disadvantaged communities. The criteria take into account the cumulative impacts of environmental and health burdens, as well as the characteristics of the population.
Why electric school buses? Emissions from diesel and gas school buses create poor air quality which contributes to the climate crisis and also creates dangerous environmental health conditions for our children, especially our children living in disadvantaged communities. We need to make sure we ditch diesel, get rid of expensive gases, and pass the Clean Air Clean Water and Green Jobs Environmental Bond act.
The CLCPA provides emission reduction mandates and the CJWG provides guidance on which communities need to be prioritized. The Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act aims to fund our communities at the forefront of the climate and public health crisis. Just like the CLCPA mandate, the Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act requires 35-40% of the benefits of new school bus investments to go to disadvantaged communities facing cumulative environmental impacts.
Voting Yes to the Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act gives us the opportunity to have the funds to replace 45,000 diesel and gas school buses in New York State with fully electric modern school buses for our students. Our current school buses fail and have old engines that cost us time and money. The state of our school buses not only contributes to emissions that create poor air quality, but also to noise pollution. Our students deserve a clean, safe and reliable bus journey to and from school.
When we vote for our students we also vote for the numerous bus operators and staff who are also overexposed to the harmful fumes of diesel and gas school buses.
Time to vote Yes to invest $ 500 million in our students and student health! This funding will be used to purchase electric buses and chargers and to ensure that people working for bus companies have access to electric fleet maintenance training.
Long Island is at the forefront of the climate crisis with our coastline threatened by rising seas. Long Islanders can make a big impact in this election cycle to reduce this threat when we vote for electric school buses.
We have 127 school districts on Long Island. Vote Yes for the Clean Air, Clean Water Environmental Bond Act to make sure we prioritize our students, our children, our communities and our workers in the bus industry who struggle to breathe fresh, clean air.
Monique Fitzgerald is a climate justice organizer with the Long Island Progressive Coalition.