Concerned families, teachers and community leaders recently joined Juntos: Our Air, Our Water, a program of Conservation Voters New México Education Fund in partnership with Chispa, at a rally to pressure Governor Susana Martínez to transition from dirty diesel to clean, electric school buses.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency settled with Volkswagen over Clean Air Act violations after the car company cheated on clean air testing for their diesel vehicles. The New México Environment Department is currently working on a plan for utilizing New México’s nearly $18 million share of the settlement. New México has been given a great opportunity to use these funds to address critical health issues in some of our poorest communities.
“My daughter developed significant health problems from riding the bus to school. Every time she used the school bus, her health issues worsened and I had to stop letting her ride the bus and find another way to take her to school,” said Jessica Ramírez, mother and Juntos promotora. “I support the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign because I have another child and although he always wants to go to school field trips on a school bus, I cannot let him because I have already had a very difficult experience with my daughter due to the pollution emitted by those school buses. The worry and the fear that the pollution emitted by the buses could affect my children already has me afraid. I do not want someone else to go through what happened to me.”
In New México, there are approximately 166,000 kids who ride school buses each day, over half of whom are children of color. With so many children exposed to pollution, it’s no coincidence that more than 1 in 11 suffer from asthma.
On November 30th, families, faith leaders, community organizations, and decision-makers rallied in Albuquerque to call on Gov. Martínez to allocate Volkswagen settlement funds to transition school buses from diesel to electric to protect our children and communities from diesel pollution. Following the rally, a contingent of families travelled to Santa Fe to deliver nearly 2,000 petitions to the New México Environment Department and Gov. Martínez for the public record.
“There is currently no formal public comment process for determining the use of these funds. Gov. Martínez and the Environment Department should create a formal, transparent and easy to access public input process to ensure that the voices of those most impacted are fully heard and are part of the decision-making process,” said Victor Nevarez, youth organizing contractor for Juntos: Our Air, Our Water. “This should include a system and timeline for public comment, materials accessible in multiple languages and an outline of how public comment and input, especially from communities heavily impacted by diesel pollution, will ultimately shape the plan.”
“Allocating Volkswagen Settlement funds to transition school buses from diesel to electric is a way to protect our children and care for creation,” said Sister Joan Brown, osf, Executive Director, New México Interfaith Power and Light. “People of faith are concerned about children, their health and their future as we face climate change. What a perfect way to address these concerns.”
More info: facebook.com/JuntosNM or www.CVNMEF.org.
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