Gov. Newsom takes important step by upgrading school HVAC and water systems and increasing EV charging stations

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New law will contribute to helping the health and environment of our communities

Environment California

SACRAMENTO –. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed The Healthy Schools for a Healthy Recovery bill, AB 841, into law late Wednesday night. This bill will upgrade heating and cooling (HVAC) systems at schools, improve plumbing and bring more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to California.

AB 841 temporarily redirects unspent energy efficiency funds to create a grant program for schools to repair and replace inefficient HVAC systems and water fixtures. The program gives priority to low-income schools and mandates a trained workforce to properly install and repair systems. 

The bill will also ensure our children have access to clean drinking water at school. State law requires commercial and residential buildings to replace old, inefficient plumbing fixtures. However, this requirement does not apply to public schools. AB 841 would replace these fixtures with new, lead-free and more efficient ones to reduce lead in our children’s drinking water and save 6 billion gallons of water a year.

Environment California State Director Dan Jacobson and CALPIRG Executive Director Emily Rusch issued the following statements on the bill’s passage:

“Our kids can breathe a little easier knowing that we are taking the steps necessary to stave off the worst impacts of climate change and improve air quality in their schools,” Jacobson said.  ”By making our schools more energy efficient we reduce costs and reduce energy consumption. By building more EV charging stations we cut down on pollution from fossil fuels. This law is a win-win situation for our students.

“Just like the governor’s recent executive order pledged to do, this expansion of California’s EV infrastructure will also play a key role in allowing us to transition away from polluting, gas-powered cars.

“Thank you Governor Newsom and Assemblymember Phil Ting for passing a key climate bill that can be used as a template for other states and the federal government to clean our air and move us away from fossil fuels.”

“When it’s safe for children to go back to school, they need healthy air to breathe and clean water to drink,” Rusch said.“This act will ensure that more schools have both.”

“The timing for this law is important because while our children are distance learning, we can make urgently needed upgrades to HVAC and water systems in schools most in need, as recommended by health agencies. Poor ventilation is a systemic problem in California schools, exposing students and teachers to wildfire smoke, carbon dioxide and potentially now COVID-19. A CALPIRG analysis this year found that thousands of school drinking water fountains — spanning across more than half of reporting school districts in urban, rural and suburban areas — were contaminated by lead. 

“We are all eager for schools to reopen, but first we must do everything in our power to guarantee students’ learning environment is as safe as possible. Thanks to Assemblymember Ting and Gov. Newsom, California has just taken a big step in the right direction.”