School bus meets green standards

Published 10:11 am Friday, December 2, 2016

The bright iconic yellow of a school bus appears to match well with the eco-friendly green of cleaner emissions — at least in Nederland.

Nederland Independent School District was able to purchase a new clean diesel school bus thanks in part to the $101,835 given to them by the Southeast Texas Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D).

“It’s the fourth time RC&D has helped us purchase a bus,” Charlie Polk, transport supervisor for NISD, said. “We’ve been fortunate in receiving grants and working with them for projects.”

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The funds are a result of fines imposed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), who partners with RC&D to help distribute the fine amount into the area where it originated.

“TCEQ fines the refiners around here whose emissions go above the accepted standard,” Buddy Johnson, president of RC&D, said.

“The refinery can either opt for the fine to go to the state or to go to the county where they’re located.”

Johnson said the money could then go toward school districts needing buses with cleaner emissions, usually by retrofitting old buses or buying entirely new ones.

“The company who violated the (standards) will find the money given locally,” Johnson said. “And help them realize they made the right decision.”

Johnson expressed uncertainty when giving it to the state because one may never know where and when the money would actually be spent.

“Southeast Texas RC&D has been a big support and they’ve been a great help for the district,” Polk said. “We’ve worked together for four to five years now.”

Polk said of the school district’s relationship with RC&D for cleaner vehicles,

“It’s working together to remove some of our older and less environmentally friendly models and putting new engines and clean vehicles on the road.”

According to Polk, clean vehicles and cleaner standards is something the school district strives for.

“We try to be as environmentally friendly as we can on all efforts with the district,” Polk said. “And when we come together on clean air proposal, it’s a welcome event.”

Nederland ISD currently has 29 buses with new ones costing upwards of $102,000 depending on how one specifies it, according to Polk.

The new school bus that was purchased with RC&D funds carries such features as three-point lap and shoulder seat belts, camera system, air condition, tinted windows and under belly storage.

“Something newer models have is the rear stop sign,” Polk said before activating a bright red sign at both the front and the back of the bus.

“Smaller districts tend to push their school buses a little longer than wealthier districts,” Polk said.

The average lifespan of a Nederland spare bus is 20 years while a route bus sees half of that span, according to Polk.

“We have a very well-planned preventative maintenance program,” Polk said. “And we try to keep service from the start and keep up with every aspect of the vehicles.”

The Southeast Texas RC&D is a volunteer nonprofit involved with several projects having to do with the welfare and quality of its fourteen county purview.

“We work with a lot of different projects…” LeRoy McCall, Jr., treasurer of RC&D, said. “We do a lot of natural things.”

McCall listed areas such as Fannett and Chamber County where the RC&D helped them with projects like water dispersal, waste disposal and proper sewage treatment.

“Most of us assist with the subcommittee,” McCall said.

McCall also listed several of their volunteer membership as county officials when he spoke of their desire to help their areas.