Peoria Journal Star

June 4, 2004

Cat praised for school bus project
EPA administrator lauds low emissions of diesel equipment


By DORI MEINERT
of Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Leavitt on Thursday praised Caterpillar Inc.'s donation of $250,000 worth of equipment to lower smog-producing diesel emissions of more than 240 school buses in Peoria and two other cities across the country.

"I just love these school bus events. It's just so much fun," said Leavitt at a ceremony in the courtyard of the EPA headquarters that featured a yellow school bus with its hood opened to reveal a low-emission Caterpillar engine.

"Caterpillar not only has contributed in terms of technology, but they're demonstrating remarkable corporate citizenship and a sense of participation in local communities by making this generous contribution," said Leavitt, adding that he hoped other companies would follow suit.

As part of its Clean School Bus USA initiative, the EPA has set a goal to retrofit or replace 450,000 diesel-powered school buses by 2010. Congress appropriated $5 million for a pilot program this year that quickly ran out of money. President Bush has requested $65 million for fiscal 2005, which begins Oct. 1. But fiscal constraints make it unlikely that the full amount will be appropriated.

Caterpillar's donation to Peoria District 150 was announced by the company last summer. All 136 of Peoria's school buses already have been retrofitted to reduce emissions.

But the donations to school districts in Tucson, Ariz., and Ellis County, Texas, were revealed Thursday by Caterpillar Group President Stu Levenick at a news conference held in conjunction with the National Retrofit Conference taking place in Washington, D.C., this week.

Levenick pledged to "continue partnering with the EPA and schools across the country to retrofit older school buses with the latest environmentally friendly technology."

District 150 Superintendent Kay Royster traveled to the nation's capital to publicly thank Caterpillar for the donation on behalf of the district's approximately 16,000 students.

Royster told the audience of mostly EPA and Caterpillar employees that she thinks it's important "to tell schoolchildren that corporate America cares about them."

"It's important to learn in class and it is equally as important to take care of your community, to take care of each other and to take care of the environment," she said.

Republican Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, whose district includes Caterpillar's international headquarters, said "the real credit here goes to the employees of Caterpillar," who developed the technology and make the engines.

The three communities were selected jointly by the EPA and Caterpillar. About three dozen school districts applied and had to demonstrate financial need.

The EPA requires reductions of emissions from on-road diesel engines including those in trucks and buses. But the regulations don't cover existing engines. The school bus retrofit program is voluntary. The state of Illinois also has a program to reduce school bus emissions.

Caterpillar stands to gain the sales of its emission control technology.