Rick Gregg, Founder and Coordinator of the “Idle-Free” Lenox Campaign, attended a public hearing earlier this week at the Massachusetts State House to testify in favor of a measure to improve air quality. Gregg stated, “With more than one million residents potentially affected by unnecessary engine idling on our school propertied, we have a special obligation to take action. We banned the use of tobacco products on school properties, and now we must do the same with an equally harmful practice- unnecessary motor vehicle idling.” Gregg is also an Instructor of Heathcare Administration and Operating Director of the Sawyer Business School's Healthcare Administration Programs.
The bill was filed last month by State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) who also testified in favor of eliminating unnecessary engine idling on school campuses across the Commonwealth. The measure, S. 2357 An Act to Improve School Campus Air Quality, was referred to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture this past September and moved quickly to the hearing process.
Downing’s legislation has the support of 48 co-sponsors, including the co-chairs of the Environment Committee, Senator Pamela Resor and Representative Frank Smizik.
Senator Downing urged the Committee for action by saying “This legislation impacts the environment, public health, and transportation needs, but begins and ends with improving air quality and reducing the personal carbon footprint we leave behind.”
Under current law, vehicles can idle for no more than five minutes. This new legislation would ban motorists from any idling on school grounds across Massachusetts or face a $100 fine for the first violation and $500 for any additional violation. Fees collected would be deposited into an “Environmental Education Fund” created by this bill and used for promoting environmental education initiatives at schools statewide.
Jeffrey Seyler, CEO of the American Lung Association of Massachusetts endorsed Downing’s proposal by stating “We believe that assuring a healthy school environment, both indoors and outside is an obligation, not a choice. We have a responsibility to be certain that the school environment is not harmful to the health of out children.”
Across Massachusetts, more than 750,000 children ride approximately 9,000 school buses and 770 school vehicles each day. Each year, an average of 1.35 million gallons of fuel is wasted by idling school vehicles, costing Massachusetts school districts an average $3.5 million. This bill drastically limits emitted pollutants, improving air in and around school buildings and produces real savings to school districts across the Commonwealth.
After today’s hearing, the Committee will review all testimony received and deliberate its next action on the bill. The Committee must report the bill out favorably before the full membership of the Senate and House of Representatives can debate its merits.