Clean Air Zone Montana

What is Clean Air Zone Montana?

Clean Air Zone Montana is a statewide program aimed at reducing children’s exposure to school bus diesel exhaust by discouraging idling of buses and other vehicles and encouraging use of alternative fuels in school buses. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has initiated Clean Air Zone Montana to provide Montana Schools with a comprehensive toolkit to reduce the impacts of vehicle emissions outside their schools.

The goals of Clean Air Zone Montana are to:

  • Provide a healthier environment for Montana’s school children by reducing emissions from diesel-powered school buses.
  • Improve air quality in and around school buildings and throughout local communities.   

What are the health impacts of diesel exhaust?

Diesel exhaust aggravates asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, according to the U.S. EPA, and exacerbates allergies. Based on human exposure studies, as well as lab data, EPA has concluded that diesel is a probable carcinogen. While dropping off or picking students up from school and waiting, idling buses and vehicles emit fine particulate matter and other air pollutants, which can impact air quality and public health. Bus idling and bus queuing can further increase the concentration of particulates both inside school buses and inside nearby buildings. Although breathing diesel exhaust may not measurably impair lung function in adults, recent studies demonstrate that particulate pollution can impair the development of lungs in children. Fortunately, schools can take several steps to reduce diesel exhaust from school uses.

What can schools do to minimize the health impacts of school bus diesel exhaust?

  • Reduce Exposure
    • Establish guidelines to reduce or eliminate idling of buses and other vehicles.
    • Park buses away from children’s gathering places and building intake vents.
    • Inform parents and other vehicle users of no-idling policies in from of schools, especially during periods when large numbers of children are present (pick-up and drop-off times).
    • Create a Clean Air Zone around your school to comprehensively address children’s exposure to air pollution.
  • Use Alternative Fuels - Using cleaner fuels is one way existing buses can be upgraded to pollute less. Possible alternative fuel options include:
    • Biodiesel Fuels: Biodiesel, a mix of diesel fuel with vegetable oil-based products, can reduce fine particulate emissions by up to 10 percent and also may reduce the toxicity of diesel emissions. A standard diesel engine can operate on biodiesel mixtures of up to 20 percent without physical modifications. The incremental cost of 20 percent biodiesel typically ranges from 12-20 cents per gallon.
    • Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel: ULSD has significantly less sulfur content, which results in up to 10 percent reductions of fine particulates, and can be used in any diesel vehicle. The additional cost of ULSD ranges from 8-20 cents per gallon. Montana implemented ULSD in October 2006.
  • Joing the Clean Air Zone Montana Program - Take a pledge to “Get into the Zone.” Your school will receive:
    • A Clean Air Zone Toolkit, including sample clean air zone strategies and guidelines for adopting no-idle zones outside your schools, signs to mark no-idle zones, sample letters to parents, and information for bus drivers.
    • Technical and policy assistance
    • Information on possible funding opportunities

Program Contact:

Additional Resources:

  • Clean School Bus
    • The web site of the Environment Protection Agency includes information on idle reduction, retrofitting, and replacement. You can also request free outreach materials from the EPA to help with your program.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy
    • The U.S. department of Energy website provides information on using alternative fuels in school bus fleets. Read several success stories of school bus fleet transitions to alternative fuels.
  • The American Lung Association
    • Read about the health effects of diesel emissions and possible solutions.