The Massachusetts Attorney General reached a settlement in its lawsuit against a local bus company this week for excessively idling its school buses in New Bedford. Tremblay’s Bus Company agreed to pay a fine of more than $100,000 for violating the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws.

Attorney General Maura Healey said her office investigated Tremblay’s after hearing complaints that drivers were leaving buses running outside schools for more than 20 minutes without moving. The company, owned by a local family since 1967, operates a fleet of more than 250 buses.

“We bring cases in my office against the Exxon’s of the world for their role in contributing to the climate crisis,” Healey said, “but we also work on the local level and take on pollution where we see it in our communities.” 

The attorney general’s office linked inhaling diesel exhaust to higher rates of asthma, lung damage and cancer.

“School bus idling actually is a problem because the diesel that is coming out of those school buses as they sit idling outside schools really hurts the air quality around them, and therefore hurts the health of, in this case, school aged kids,” Healey said.

The attorney general’s office sent notices to schools and bus companies across Massachusetts describing the settlement. Healey said the agreement with Tremblay’s also requires the company to train its drivers to avoid “excessive idling.”

“Hopefully, this settlement is a message to school bus companies out there as well as to schools: let's take the steps necessary to protect our environment, and protect the health of young people,” Healey said.

At least $100,000 from the settlement with Tremblay’s will be donated to the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center and the Friends of Buttonwood Park, who plan to use the money to plant trees.

Richard Leary, the Friends of Buttonwood Park’s president, said the settlement came as a surprise. 

“I had no knowledge or awareness that there was a case in court,” he said. “But that's money that we can certainly use for the betterment of the park.”

Tremblay’s is also paying the attorney general’s office an additional $45,000 to cover the cost of the investigation. 

The settlement still requires the approval of a federal judge overseeing the case before the money can be exchanged.

Ben Berke is the South Coast Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio. He can be reached at bberke@thepublicsradio.org.