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Get on the Clean Bus, Gus

Washington State Cleans Up Its School Buses Washington state has launched an ambitious program to retrofit its diesel school buses with devices that curb pollution. Throughout the country, public health advocates and parents alike have grown concerned about school buses' dirty emissions, which can contribute to a range of health problems, particularly in children, whose lungs are still developing. Four years from now, the U.S. EPA will require that new buses include exhaust-cleansing equipment, but that won't help kids now, so Washington is trying to get a jump on the problem. The state aims to retrofit 5,000 of its 9,000 …

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Run Out on a Rail

Senate Rejects White House Proposal to Restructure Amtrak A White House plan to restructure Amtrak was, uh, derailed yesterday by nearly unanimous bipartisan opposition in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The six-year Amtrak reauthorization bill proposed ending federal operating subsidies for the passenger rail service, opening some routes to private operators, and turning the Washington-to-Boston service area over to the states. Committee members called it an ill-disguised effort to dismantle the beleaguered rail system and leave states holding the financial bag. Even one of the only champions of the plan, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), acknowledged that "there …

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Return of the Smog Monster

Southern California Air Quality Takes a Turn for the Worse After years of gradual improvement, Southern California's air quality took a tumble this summer, falling to its worst levels since 1997 due to the combined effects of hot weather and increasing emissions. Taken as a whole, the region's air quality has dramatically improved in the last quarter-century, but the rising smog levels in the last three years, and especially this past summer, threaten that long-term trend. Southern California had 30 percent more smoggy days this summer than last, and twice as many smoggy days as Houston, usually a close competitor …

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Wheelie Great

Car-Free Day Helps Clear the Air in Europe Citizens in more than 1,000 cities around the world were treated to cleaner air and less congested streets yesterday on the sixth annual car-free day. The event was particularly popular in Europe, where air pollution has had a higher profile since August, when poor air quality accompanied scorching hot temperatures, perhaps contributing to heat-related deaths. In participating cities, the streets were taken over by pedestrians, rollerbladers, and cyclists, and mass transit fees were lowered or dropped altogether. In Paris, police blocked most vehicles from the city center. In Britain, light-hearted phrasebooks were …

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Sake It to ‘em

Tokyo High Court Hears Long-Running Pollution Case In the latest development in a seven-year court case, the Tokyo High Court yesterday began hearing a lawsuit that accuses the Japanese government, the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation, and several diesel-vehicle manufacturers of endangering the health of the city's citizens by failing to stem automobile pollution. The lawsuit features 99 plaintiffs who suffer from respiratory ailments or lost family members to pollution-related illnesses. They say the defendants in the case failed to institute regulations and technology to control the city's pollution problems. Three similar lawsuits involving the same defendants …

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City of Light Traffic

Paris, Edinburgh Contemplate London-Style Traffic Fees Thousands of miles from Tokyo, France and Scotland are trying to figure out what to do about their own traffic-induced pollution problems. The French government is considering instituting a toll for vehicles entering Paris, which is suffering from severe pollution as a result of heavy traffic combined with consistently high summer temperatures. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Edinburgh city council voted to move forward with a plan to charge drivers roughly $3.25 to enter the city in an effort to limit congestion and pollution. The money would be used to fund public transportation projects. Both …

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Taking Leaves of Our Senses

U.S. Cities Lose 20 Percent of Trees Urban sprawl and highway construction have gobbled up greenery at a startling rate, leaving U.S. cities with 20 percent fewer trees than they had just 10 years ago, according to the environmental group American Forests. In a study released as part of the annual National Urban Forest conference, researchers used satellite images to look at the tree canopy in 448 urban areas. The loss was dramatic everywhere, but it was most acute in cities in the fast-growing Sunbelt. Atlanta, Ga., suffered the highest loss of trees, while Charlotte, N.C., and San Diego, Calif., …

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A Nice Piece of Tailpipe

New Low-Polluting Cars to Hit U.S. Showrooms Next Month There are low-emission vehicles (LEVs), ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEVs), super-ultra-low-emission vehicles (SULEVs), and the holy grail of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). As if the clean-car world weren't baffling enough, now there's a new acronym to add to this alphabet soup -- partial zero-emission vehicles (PZEVs), which Ford and Toyota will begin selling across the U.S. next month. They're not quite non-polluting, but they're getting closer. PZEVs look and perform like standard cars -- they've just got a couple hundred dollars worth of equipment that makes them markedly cleaner. Ford's first PZEV model will …

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Grand Shift Auto

Car Ownership Surging in Beijing The number of registered cars in Beijing jumped to 2 million last month, doubling in just six years. Now one in five households in the Chinese capital owns a car, a huge shift from the situation a decade ago, when most cars were owned by the government and the city's residents were more likely to have a run-in with a horse-drawn cart than a motorized vehicle. Along with the surge in car ownership has come traffic congestion and increased pollution -- this in a city already notorious for having some of the worst air quality …

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Meet the New Mobile, Worse than the Old Mobile

New Snowmobiles to Be Permitted in Yellowstone Are Dirtier Than Old Models A new generation of ostensibly cleaner and quieter snowmobiles turns out to be more polluting than older models, according to tests by the U.S. EPA. In a controversial Bush administration decision, the new snowmobiles were approved for use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks after the industry promised they would have a lower impact on the environment; now, it turns out that the new 'mobiles produce from 40 to 213 percent more emissions than 2002 models. The tests measured carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions, as well as …

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