EPA doubles money for electric school buses as demand soars

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Responding to “overwhelming demand”, the Environmental Protection Agency nearly doubles the money available to states to purchase electric models of the familiar yellow school buses that millions of children use every school day.

The EPA made $500 million available for clean buses in May, but is increasing that to $965 million for districts nationwide. An additional $1 billion is expected to become available during the budget year.

In the current year, the agency said it has received around 2,000 requests asking nearly $4 billion for more than 12,000 mostly electric buses.

“America’s school districts have delivered this message loud and clear: We need to replace old, dirty diesel school buses,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “Together, we can reduce climate pollution, improve air quality and reduce the risk of health impacts like asthma for as many as 25 million children who ride the bus every day.”

Only about 1% of the country’s 480,000 school buses were electric last year, but the trend away from diesel buses has accelerated in recent years.

The money for the new purchases is available through the agency’s Clean School Bus program, which includes $5 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law last year.

School districts in all 50 states have applied for rebates under the program, which aims to replace traditional diesel school buses with low- and zero-emission models over the next five years. The EPA said it will quickly review submitted applications and plans to issue awards next month.

EPA Administrator Regan said the accelerated deadline for the grants was the result of particularly strong demand.

The Biden administration is “working in all 50 states to accelerate the transition to a future where clean, zero-emission school buses are the American norm,” he said.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he was pleased to see the strong demand for electric school buses, including in low-income, tribal and other disadvantaged communities.

“The very communities have the most to gain from our historic investments in clean school buses in the bipartisan Infrastructure Act,” Carper said. Given the strong response from states and local school districts, “it’s clear that more funding is needed…so that more communities can realize the clean air and energy-saving benefits of these vehicles.” cleaner,” he said.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the additional grant a “huge win for our nation’s children and our fight against the climate crisis.”

The current refund claim period under the EPA program ended in August. More than 90% of requests were for zero-emission electric buses, including about 9% for propane buses and 1% for compressed natural gas buses, also known as CNG.

The Clean School Bus program aims to reduce global warming greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air pollution. Diesel fume pollution is linked to asthma and other health problems that cause students to miss school.

“With apps flooding the Clean School Bus program, school districts across the country have spoken: They’re ready to make dirty diesel buses a thing of the past,” said Sue Gander, director of a bus initiative. electric school boards for World Resources. Institute, a global research organization.

“There is no doubt that we are entering a new electric era in student transportation, an era with enormous health, climate and economic benefits for our children,” Gander said.

The National Education Association, which represents teachers and other school professionals, welcomed the push for cleaner school buses but said more needed to be done to improve school bus safety.

“We are excited about the new technology and cleaner fuel with these state-of-the-art buses,” said NEA senior policy analyst Tim Barchak. “But in terms of transporting your children, that’s half the equation. We want them to have the best drivers…and the more we professionalize and stabilize the bus driver position, the better it is for them. children.

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