How Students Can Fight Climate Change at Their Schools

How Students Can Fight Climate Change at Their Schools

By 2021 Spring Intern, Shivani Sidh

This spring, I had the opportunity to do an internship at Maryland League of Conservation Voters. I chose to work with the organization because I’m interested in climate justice: resolving the environmental, ethical, and equity issues created by climate change. 

Shivani Sidh is a student at Garrison Forest School who is volunteered with the Chispa Maryland program. Post-graduation she will progress to the University of Maryland as a Public Policy major. Shivani is grateful for the opportunity to work in a professional setting and excited to work with Maryland LCV on environmental justice and social equity policies.

Addressing the complex issue of environmental justice can seem challenging, especially for high school students who want to get involved in the fight for climate change. However, one opportunity for involvement is closer and simpler than expected. High schoolers can use their position as students to create change by working for school bus electrification, a campaign that aims to transition fleets from diesel to electric school buses. 

While school buses are an efficient method of transport, most are powered by diesel, which has adverse effects on children and the atmosphere. Each day, countless children travel on diesel buses to attend school. In comparison to someone riding in a car, a child in a diesel school bus may be exposed to as much as four times the level of toxins. Diesel emits carcinogens and particulate matter, which can exacerbate common breathing conditions such as asthma. It’s significant to note that minority children have higher asthma rates in comparison to their white counterparts. Diesel emissions also cause an increased risk for a multitude of illnesses ranging from cancer to heart disease. 

Diesel holds an additional risk to the environment, as in addition to the toxins, it releases a variety of pollutants (such as CO2 and nitrogen oxides). The health and well being of children and the environment should not be compromised by something as common as a school bus.

Students can encourage the transition to cleaner transportation by educating themselves on the severity of climate change, signing petitions, and reaching out to elected officials. Students can also work with teams, possibly joining organizations like Maryland LCV and participating in their efforts, creating environmental clubs, and reaching out to the transportation department for their respective schools.

There are currently a number of avenues for school districts to start transitioning their fleets from diesel to electric that range from from federal grant programs and loans to utility investment, financing strategies and vehicle-to-grid technology. Maryland LCV’s Chispa program supported a state bill that intended to launch a pilot project to electrify school bus fleets in Maryland districts. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass through the Senate, but Maryland LCV and its partners intend to re-address the issue in the next legislative session.  

Some Maryland school districts are creating their own solutions to begin the deployment of electric school buses and practice sustainability. Montgomery County recently approved a contract to lease 326 electric buses, a model that can be used to eventually electrify the entire bus fleet. Additionally, in March of 2021, Prince George’s County Public Schools became the first to commit to a Net Zero Emissions  plan. They vowed that by 2040 their transportation would be “fully clean”. 

Hopefully, with student help, the efforts of environmental groups, and the work of legislators, all Maryland diesel school buses will be replaced by 2030.

If you are a high school student interested in advocating for electric buses at your school, please let us know. We would love to help you in your efforts! Email us at info@mdlcv.org 

By |2021-07-26T15:38:11-04:00July 26th, 2021|Categories: Blog, DEIJ|Tags: , |0 Comments

Montgomery County Public Schools to Transition Their Diesel School Bus Fleet to Zero-Emission Clean School Buses for Healthy Kids

 Maryland League of Conservation Voters Applauds the Decision of Maryland League of Conservation Voters Applauds the Decision of Montgomery County Public Schools to Transition Their Diesel School Bus Fleet to Zero-Emission Clean School Buses for Healthy Kids

February 25, 2021

ANNAPOLIS, MD. – This week, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) approved a contract to lease 326 electric school buses as part of a pan to electrify its entire school bus fleet. 

“Chispa Maryland applauds MCPS for taking this unprecedented step in protecting the health of children and beginning this transition to a clean ride for kids,” said Ramón Palencia-Calvo, Deputy Executive Director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Director of Chispa Maryland, a community organizing program of Maryland LCV.  “This contract demonstrates that school systems can transition their diesel bus fleets to zero-emission clean electric buses while keeping their transportation budgets neutral. We hope other school systems in Maryland can adopt one of the several financial solutions available to bypass the initial costs to transition their diesel fleets to zero-emission school buses.”

Diesel emissions are the most harmful type of transportation emissions. Diesel school buses not only pollute our air and harm our children’s lungs and developing organs, but they also contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions worsening the effects of climate change. Initial costs of electric school buses is still a barrier for school systems to transition their diesel fleets to zero-emission electric school fleets. There are several strategies that school systems and other stakeholders can employ to offset the upfront cost.

In this legislative session, Chispa Maryland and Maryland LCV are supporting House Bill 832, Public Utilities-Electric School Bus Pilot Program, which would deploy electric school buses with vehicle-to-grid-technology, and the Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act of 2021 (HB0334/SB0137), which would mandate beginning in 2023 all contracts for state-purchased buses need to be for zero-emission vehicles, leading to a complete transition of the fleet. 

Chispa, an organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters, launched its Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign in 2015 to push state governments to use Volkswagen settlement funds to purchase zero-emission electric school buses. In 2017 Chispa Maryland, a program of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, launched the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign in Maryland. 


By |2021-03-24T13:46:56-04:00February 25th, 2021|Categories: Blog, DEIJ, Partner, Policy, Press|Tags: , , |0 Comments

NAACP Prince George’s County Branch and Black Girls Vote Receive $10,000 Grants for Equity and Racial Justice Work

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 22, 2020
Contact: Ramón Palencia-Calvo, (202) 531-5091, rpcalvo@mdlcv.org

NAACP Prince George’s County Branch and Black Girls Vote Receive $10,000 Grants for Equity and Racial Justice Work

Grants will support COVID-19 relief and Black Lives Matter efforts

Annapolis, MD – Chispa Maryland, a program of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (Maryland LCV), in partnership with their Chispa National LCV counterparts, have awarded two $10,000 grants to Maryland nonprofit groups to support their COVID-19 relief and Black Lives Matter movement work. The groups, Baltimore-based Black Girls Vote and NAACP Prince George’s County Branch, share Chispa Maryland’s goal of elevating environmental justice issues in the Maryland General Assembly.
“Maryland’s low-income communities and communities of color have for too long suffered from poor environmental conditions, resulting in children with higher asthma and lead poisoning rates and other issues associated with contaminants in their land, air and water,” said Ramón Palencia-Calvo, Chispa Maryland director. “Groups like Prince George’s County NAACP and Black Girls Vote are doing important work to bring attention to, and improve, the issues that impact their community members.”

“We have so many black girls who are passionate about the environment,” said Nykidra “Nyki” Robinson, founder of Black Girls Vote, a nonpartisan organization designed to represent the concerns and interests of Black women. “We are committed to using these funds to make sure they have access to short- and long-term mentorship and fellowship opportunities that give them a place to let their voice and passion be heard.”

NAACP Prince George’s County Branch works to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination. The organization will use the funds in part to advance the Maryland Solar Equity Initiative 2020, which it initiated in 2020 with Bowie State University, Maryland’s oldest historically Black college. The funds will also help NAACP Prince George’s County in its outreach to the communities of Brandywine and Langley Park on issues ranging from community environmental hazards to improving transit equity and Coronavirus equity practices.

“The grant will go a long way in supporting our efforts to combat environmental injustice in our community,” said NAACP Prince George’s County Branch Treasurer John E. Simms, Jr.

Chispa Maryland’s mission is to ensure communities have a stronger political voice to influence policy makers and fight polluters. The group provides training, information, and opportunities for Latino individuals and groups to play an active role in protecting their rights to clean air and water, healthy neighborhoods, and a safe climate for generations to come.

The recent grants are not the only financial support Chispa has provided during the COVID crisis. In May 2020, Chispa Maryland and the national League of Conservation Voters raised more than $30,000 for the Langley Park Civic Association to aid COVID-relief efforts in the Prince George’s County community.

“Communities of color are important partners in our work to advance environmental legislation and policies that incorporate environmental justice in Maryland,” said Palencia-Calvo. “With so many of them experiencing hardship because of the pandemic, generating support for our community partners will continue to be a priority for us.”

The Maryland LCV Education Fund, a non-profit, non partisan organization, works to strengthen the Maryland environmental community by growing a base of conservation-minded voters across the state. A leading environmental organization in Annapolis, we have advocated for smart environmental policies working to make Maryland a healthy and prosperous place for families and communities. Maryland LCV Ed Fund protects public health by fighting for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and local waters, preserving green spaces, promoting smarter growth and increasing Maryland’s investment in clean energy.
Chispa, meaning “spark” in Spanish, is a program of Maryland League of Conservation Voters Ed Fund launched in 2014. Chispa Maryland has been working to ensure that Maryland Latino families and community leaders are a powerful voice for protecting the environment, our health, and our future. Chispa works with Latino families, community groups, faith-based organizations, and legislators to identify and address unique environmental issues facing Latino communities in Maryland.
By |2021-03-24T13:48:03-04:00December 22nd, 2020|Categories: DEIJ, Press|Tags: , , |0 Comments

50-Year Old Morgantown Coal Plant Announces Retirement 


December 21st, 2020

Media Contacts:

Contact: Pablo Willis, pablo.willis@sierraclub.org 

50-Year Old Morgantown Coal Plant Announces Retirement 

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Late Friday night, GenOn Holdings, Inc. announced the retirement of the company’s Morgantown coal-fired power plant located in Charles County, MD on the Potomac River. The company will deactivate the coal plant in 2027. Prior to Friday’s announcement, the 50-year old Morgantown plant was the largest coal-fired power plant in Maryland without plans to cease operating. Further, GenOn announced their support for state legislation in 2021 that will codify a state-wide movement beyond coal at Maryland power plants and establish new support programs for impacted workers and communities.   

For half a century working families in Charles County were made to bear the economic, environmental, and public health costs of living next to a toxic polluting coal plant. The plant continues to be a significant source of toxic water pollution discharging toxic heavy metals that can cause cancer, impair brain development in children, and harm the nervous system. Additionally, the plant is a major contributor to smog-forming pollution which exacerbates respiratory ailments and disproportionately impacts children, the elderly, and communities of color. In the past, the plant’s pollution was so severe the NAACP gave Morgantown a D+ for Environmental Justice.

Coal is rapidly declining in today’s energy market because archaic dirty fuels have been unable to compete with more affordable and cleaner renewable energy resources. The industry’s decline has been further expedited by the pressing need to address the global threat of the climate crisis and public health. Over half of the country’s coal plants have retired or announced their retirement plans over the last decade. Maryland entered 2020 with six active coal-fired plants and now five of the six plants have either retired or have announced plans to retire.

It’s imperative that leaders in Annapolis pass the “Coal Community Transition Act of 2021” to establish a coal transition plan with a timeline for retirements and that provides meaningful resources to impacted workers and communities as they face the industry’s precipitous decline. The workers at the GenOn Morgantown facility are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), local 1900. 

Statements from Senator West and Delegate Brooks are available here.

Chispa Maryland Director Ramon Palencia-Calvo released the following statement: 

“The Morgantown plant closing is good news, but too many communities in Maryland are still suffering unnecessarily from pollution during these uncertain economic times. The state must accelerate an equitable, enforceable transition plan that moves Maryland off coal and towards a clean energy economy that prioritizes our workers and communities.”

The Senior Campaign Representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign David Smedick released the following statement in response

“Friday’s announcement is a big step for environmental and community activists who for decades fought against the toxic air and water pollution the Morgantown plant generated. The coal industry’s inevitable decline is here and Maryland must urgently transition to affordable clean energy resources like solar and wind in order to stave off some of the devastating effects of climate change. In the coming years, we will keep working to hold GenOn accountable for its pollution from the Morgantown facility while pushing for more local investment in clean energy solutions. GenOn’s support for coal transition legislation in 2021 creates important momentum leading into an unprecedented Maryland legislative session. Maryland’s General Assembly leaders and Governor Hogan must take swift action by passing the “Coal Community Transition Act of 2021” to establish a timely transition plan off coal and to clean energy that supports our communities and promotes good union jobs for impacted workers.” 

Jonathan Lacock-Nisly, Director of Faithful Advocacy for Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA), released the following statement:

“People of faith know that caring for our communities means transitioning away from coal as a power source. We see the closing of the Morgantown plant and all of Maryland’s coal plants as essential for the health of our state, our climate, our neighbors, and ourselves. 

“We call on our elected officials to provide funding for a just transition—a transition that ensures both clean air and good union jobs for all of our communities. Faithful Marylanders know that a clean energy economy is our future, and our communities are depending on our elected officials to chart the path forward.”

Charles County Board of Commissioners’ President Reuben B. Collins II, released the following statement:

“Being ahead of the curve as the county prepares for the eventual closing of the Morgantown Plant will provide measurable dividends for our citizens.  We want to be at the table when a “just transition” plan is adopted to ensure that the lost revenue (commercial tax dollars in excess of $8.5 million) will be replaced with a plan to retrain the present workforce, and focus on renewable energy alternatives.  Passage of this legislation in Annapolis will be a win-win for our citizens, closing out the hazardous emissions from a coal plant to a transition to energy that is renewable. This will potentially reap economic development benefits for the future.”

Phillip Musegaas, Vice President Programs and Litigation,  Potomac Riverkeeper Network,  released the following statement:

“Potomac Riverkeeper supports GenOn’s decision to close Morgantown’s coal fired units, with the expectation that the company will conduct a full cleanup of coal pollution at the site as part of its plan,” said Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper. “Morgantown has a troubled history of polluting Pasquehanza Creek and the Potomac River with coal waste that must be addressed, and we will continue to hold GenOn accountable for any pollution problems at the site.”   

Maryland Sierra Club Executive Committee Member, Teresa Ball, released the following statement in response

“GenOn’s announcement to discontinue coal operations at Morgantown is a critical step in easing the massive pollution burden in Charles County and in moving Maryland beyond coal. However, this announcement is only the start of a conversation regarding a transition plan for our County, community, and workers.”

By |2020-12-21T10:47:11-05:00December 21st, 2020|Categories: Blog, Climate Change, Press|Tags: , , |0 Comments
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