Green school machines

The engine on the bus is green, green, green.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fueling Station opened this week.

The station and 29 new buses that run on CNG were made possible through five grants from organizations like the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the California Air Resources Board, which the district has earned over the past four years.

The fueling station at the district bus yard in Costa Mesa has 26 hoses, and was installed over the summer; it had its ribbon cutting Thursday.

“Even school buses without CNG produce much less emissions per student than cars taking them to school,” district Director of Transportation Pete Meslin said.

They also produce less carbon dioxide per passenger mile than planes, trains or SUVs, he said. The new buses are noticeable by their diamond-shaped blue and white “CNG” stickers on the back.

The new approach to transportation will yield the district more than just good will; it will now be eligible for a federal tax break and other savings, and natural gas is less expensive than diesel fuel.

Many other districts throughout the state are developing CNG fleets as well.

Newport-Mesa Unified still operates about 50 non-CNG buses, roughly 20 of which run on diesel. The grants also allowed the district to add particulate traps to catch pollution generated by the diesel buses.

The transportation department also has revised bus routes to make them as efficient as possible, cutting down on transportation costs and pollution.

“We want to turn school-bus yellow into the new green,” Meslin said.

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