Dozens Of School Districts Get New Buses After VW Settlement

By Claire Caulfield
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 8:41am
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 9:06am

More than four dozen Arizona school districts are getting new school buses at no cost to taxpayers.

The tab for the 142 new buses is coming from the state's $59 million share of a nationwide settlement with Volkswagen over the sale of its so-called "clean-diesel'' vehicles. Gov. Doug Ducey had ultimate authority on how to divide the cash, within certain court-approved guidelines.

More districts may benefit in the future. The governor's office said it is still reviewing the applications from another 63 districts to see if they qualify.

In 2016, VW pleaded guilty to three felonies, including defrauding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

VW engineers had installed a "defeat device," programmed to go into a low-emission mode during testing but then spew out pollutants at much higher — and illegal — levels when actually on the road to improve performance.

The company agreed to $4.3 billion in penalties and another $4.9 billion to address pollution from the supposedly low-emission diesel vehicles.

Arizona's $57 million share had to be spent on projects to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen, the very pollutants the VW vehicles were spitting out above permissible levels.

State officials figure that, for each aging school bus replaced, those with at least 100,000 miles, emissions of nitrogen oxides will be reduced by nearly 1.4 tons over that vehicle's anticipated 12-year life.

And Dawn Wallace, the governor's education adviser, said 80 percent of the money awarded is going to school districts in areas which already are in danger of violating clean-air standards.

The decision of how to spend the money is not without controversy.

Last year, Chispa Arizona, an arm of the League of Conservation Voters, submitted petitions with more than 16,000 names to Ducey requesting that he use the money to replace the aging diesel buses with zero-emission vehicles. They argued that is the only way to ensure that school children are not exposed to dirty air and cancer-causing pollutants from tailpipe emissions.

But Ducey's office opted not to replace the diesel buses with electric vehicles.

Aides to the governor said the decision starts with the fact that fewer than 50 electric school buses could be purchased for the same price as more than 150 conventionally fueled vehicles. They said that replacing that many diesel-powered buses with new ones results in about 36 percent less overall pollution than buying fewer zero-emission buses.

The settlement requires old buses to be fully decommissioned.  

School districts 

Aguila Elementary : 1 bus

Alhambra Elementary : 6 buses

American Basic School dua Burke Basic School : 1 bus

Ask Creek Elementary : 1 bus

Beaver Creek Elementary : 1 bus

Bowie Unified : 1 bus

Buckeye Elementary : 3 buses

Cartwright Elementary : 5 buses

Casa Grande Elementary : 6 buses

Concho Elementary : 1 bus

Congress Elementary : 1 bus

Cottonwood-Oak Creek : 1 bus

Crane Elementary : 3 buses

Douglas Unified : 2 buses

Eloy Elementary : 1 bus

Flowing Wells Unified : 2 buses

Gadsden Elementary : 4 buses

Holbrook Unified : 4 buses

Isaac Elementary : 2 buses

Kingman Unified : 10 buses

Littleton Elementary : 2 buses

Maine Consolidated : 1 bus

Mammoth-San Manuel Unified : 1 bus

Mary C. O'Brien Accommodation : 1 bus

Mayer Unified : 1 bus

McNary Elementary : 1 bus

Miami Unified : 1 bus

Mingus Union High School : 1 bus

Mobile Elementary : 1 bus

Mohawk Valley Elementary : 1 bus

Nadburg : 2 buses

Nogales Unified : 1 bus

Page Unified : 2 buses

Palo Verde Elementary : 1 bus

Parker Unified : 2 buses

Patagonia Union : 1 bus

Pearce Elementary : 1 bus

Riverside Elementary : 1 bus

San Simon : 1 bus

Sanders Unified : 2 buses

Santa Cruz Valley Unified : 4 buses

Seligman Unified : 1 bus

Solomon Elementary : 2 buses

Tempe Elementary : 8 buses

Tolleson Elementary : 1 bus

Washington Elementary : 11 buses

Wenden Elementary : 2 buses

Whiteriver Unified : 3 buses

Willcox Unified : 2 buses

Window Rock Unified : 3 buses

Winslow Unified : 4 buses

Young Elementary : 1 bus

Yuma Elementary : 7 buses

Yuma Union : 9 buses

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