It has been a month since we stood together in Annapolis with concerned community members, leaders, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, and League of Conservation Voters as we delivered over 6,000 petitions to Governor Hogan for the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign.
Volkswagen cheated federal emissions test, which polluted our air and now they are paying $4.7 billion and more than half of that money is going to the states. The campaign calls for the more than $75 million that Maryland will be receiving from the Volkswagen Mitigation Fund to be used to transition from diesel public school buses to zero emission electric school buses which will benefit the approximately 623,000 kids in Maryland who ride these school buses to and from school.
During the press conference, we had community leaders and organizational partners speak on the importance of using this money to invest in our communities, to invest in our children. “Children lungs are still developing, and diesel emissions are not what they should be exposed to” said our Chispa Maryland program director, Ramon Palencia-Calvo. Members of other organizations like David Smedick of Sierra Club, Maryland Chapter expressed the need to make sure the VW money is spent to benefit communities that are most affected by diesel pollution. Ernesto Vargas from the League of Conservation Voters echoed those same thoughts and spoke about the national call for electric school buses stating that “more than 120,000 petitions have been collected nationwide for the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign.”
Delegate Carlo Sanchez of District 47 in Prince George’s and a supporter of the campaign added, “I’m proud to stand here today with members of my community, of my district, who are here today to ask the governor, ask the secretary of the environment to invest in our communities.” In addition, Lindsey Wright, from Councilmember Deni Taveras’ office was also present in support of the campaign.
Rosario, a mom from Gaithersburg Elementary School and an active leader in her community was also present at the press conference. She is one of the dozens of moms who support the campaign and has worked with Chispa Maryland to make sure the money from Volkswagen is invested the right way. Below is a snippet of what she shared [in Spanish]:
“I am here because I want to be listened that we want clean buses. Our kids in our communities in Langley Park and Montgomery [County] are suffering and dying from asthma, from contamination… I think it is time for our schools to mobilize to replace those old buses that run on diesel, to have electric school buses.”
It is time that we follow the leadership of moms like Rosario and invest in our kids. The Maryland administration has a unique opportunity to do the right thing and make sure that the money we are getting from Volkswagen is invested in those communities most affected by diesel pollution.
To take action and add your name alongside the thousands in support for a clean ride for Maryland’s kids, sign up here: https://p2a.co/CpWqtZn
Chispa, meaning “spark” in Spanish, is a program of Maryland League of Conservation Voters launched in 2014. Chispa Maryland has been working to ensure that Maryland Latino families and community leaders are a powerful voice for protecting the environment, our health, and our future. Chispa works with Latino families, community groups, faith-based organizations, and legislators to identify and address unique environmental issues facing Latino communities in Maryland.