MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As school buses take kids to school this fall, they’ll also be doing the environment a favor.

As part of the Project Green Fleet program, more than 3,200 buses have been retrofitted to help reduce diesel emissions, according to Mike Harley of Environmental Initiative.

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“I’m happy to say that we have retrofitted every school bus in the state that it makes sense to retrofit,” Harley said.

Environmental Initiative started Project Green Fleet about 10 years ago. A few buses were retrofitted then, and as air quality improved, the project expanded.

“The difference is inside the muffler, which used to be empty. But now there’s a black piece, which is called a diesel oxidation catalyst, that takes particles out of the exhaust and keeps them from getting in the air,” he said. “So you’ve got a cleaner burning bus, a cleaner running bus and a cleaner environment for the kids who ride the bus.”

And supporters say that will ultimately bring down the number of asthma attacks, heart attacks and other respiratory problems. School buses are just the beginning.

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“The next move is to move into diesel equipment, heavy equipment. And the goal there is to retrofit up to a hundred pieces of equipment in the coming years,” said John Linc Stone of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

MnDOT has already retrofitted many of their snow plows. And some of the construction vehicles at the new Vikings Stadium have also been retrofitted.

Officials say greenlighting the Green Fleet project means a cleaner future.

“And if we do that, we’re gonna be able to reduce the emissions out of those vehicles — the equivalent of taking 750,000 cars off the road in a year,” Harley said. “That’s how much less pollution will be if we do this work.”

Officials say it cost just over $3 million to retrofit school buses.

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They are hoping to raise about $8 million to retrofit construction vehicles and equipment.

John Lauritsen