Advocates keep up the pressure for electric bus funding

Members of Renew NV hold a press conference outside of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada building. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)
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Members of Renew NV hold a press conference outside of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada building. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)

Environmental groups are pushing the Public Utility Commission of Nevada to expand funding for an electric school bus pilot program.

“We were glad to see the Public Utilities Commission set aside funds for that and we thank them,” said Ivon Meneses, an organizer with Chispa Nevada during the PUCN’s General Consumer Session on Monday. “We urge the Public Utilities Commission to consider expanding this clean buses program and to continue prioritizing regulations that would clean up the air our children and families breath.”

Legislation passed in Nevada this year allows funds from the EVID program— which is funded by NV Energy customers, via a fraction of a percent ratepayers are charged per kilowatt hour, and is administered by NV Energy — to be used by school districts to cover up to 75 percent of the up-front cost of electric school buses and related charging infrastructure.

The PUCN approves NV Energy’s annual plan, which directs NV Energy on how to spend funds.

While environmental groups originally called for $3 million to $4 million to be set aside to cover the cost of purchasing and maintaining about 10 to 12 electric school buses, the PUCN only approved $1.5 million from the EVID program for school districts to invest in electric school buses, enough to cover about 5 buses.

The bill made it through the Legislature with broad bipartisan support, passing the Senate with zero opposition before passing the Assembly with only one Republican, Robin Titus, voting in opposition.

Meneses said her son was born premature and has had chronic asthma throughout his childhood. She noticed that his asthma worsened after coming home on the school bus and lessened during the summer when he did not attend school.

“Asthma is deadly,” Meneses said in an interview.”If he gets a strong enough asthma attack and they can’t stop it his life could end there.”

“That’s the fear I have as a mother, that every time he gets sick I can’t sleep for weeks,” she said in her native Spanish.

Conservation groups came out in full force during the Nevada legislative session, successfully lobbying for several clean energy bills passed by lawmakers but their push for a greener state continues.

Members of the RenewNV coalition spoke at the Public Utility Commission of Nevada’s (PUCN) annual General Consumer Session. The coalition includes Nevada Conservation League, Chispa Nevada, Battle Born Progress, and the Sierra Club.

Speakers also advocated for the swift implementation of clean energy bills passed and signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak, including SB358, which requires energy companies to produce half of their output from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, by 2030. 

The Nevada Senate crossed party lines and unanimously voted to increase the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50 percent. 

Last month, the coalition submitted a letter in support of the RPS implementation in advance of the meeting, arguing that the new portfolio standard has the potential to bring in more than $539 million in wages, generate over $1.5 billion in economic activity, and support an additional 11, 170 clean energy jobs by 2030

“We want to make sure that clean energy stays a priority as the PUC implements the new laws passed by the state and the legislature,” said Barbara Hartzell, an organizer for the Nevada Conservation League.

Nevada was once at the forefront of renewable energy policy: it was the fourth state to establish minimum renewable energy standards when it did so in 1997. Advocates are hoping Nevada continues its legacy of environmental protection. 

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.

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