New federal legislation would support the electrification of school buses in low-income communities.
The Clean School Bus Act would assist school districts around the country in replacing traditional diesel school buses with new, electric buses in order to mitigate students’ and drivers’ exposure to harmful pollutants and help address the climate crisis.
U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) introduced the bill on Wednesday along with Nevada Senator Cathrine Cortez Masto and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Diane Feinstein (D-CA) Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
The legislation would:
- Provide grants of up to $2 million to replace diesel school buses with electric school buses, invest in charging infrastructure, and support workforce development.
- Give priority to applications that serve lower-income students, replace the most polluting buses, and leverage the funding to further decrease pollution and emissions, including through partnerships with local utilities.
- Authorize $1 billion over five years at the Department of Energy to fund a Clean School Bus Grant Program to spur increased adoption of electric buses.
“Our children deserve a healthy environment to learn and grow—at school, at home, and everywhere in between,” Harris said in a statement. “We know that students are breathing polluted air on their way to school, and we know that burden falls disproportionately on low-income students and students of color. We must take action to protect them.”
“We have about 11 years left to stop the worst consequences of climate change. The U.S. transportation sector is now our biggest source of carbon pollution, and electric vehicles are already reducing emissions, ensuring clean air for our children and grandchildren and saving American families money on their fuel and maintenance costs – a real win-win for anyone who isn’t a fossil fuel executive,” Sanders said in a statement.
In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak recently signed a bill that would allow funds from the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Demonstration (EVID) program to be used by school districts to cover up to 75 percent of the upfront cost of electric school buses and related charging infrastructure.
The goal is to get about 10 to 12 electric school buses on the road in an effort to collect enough data on the health and economic benefits of electric transportation to justify more fleet replacements, but funds for the program may be in jeopardy.
School buses, which make up roughly 90 percent of the United States bus fleet and are the nation’s largest form of mass transit, traveled roughly 3.3 billion miles in 2017.
According to data from the Nevada Department of Education, during the 2017 to 2018 school year, a total of 2,789 school buses traveled a total of 38,080,144 miles. Most of those buses (1,805) are located in the Clark County School District and most of those miles (26,979,334) were driven in the Clark County School District.
The Clark County Department of Air Quality lists one basin in Nevada as an “ozone marginal nonattainment area,” meaning it does not meet EPA national ambient air quality standards for ozone.
That basin is home to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Area, where 7 out of 10 Nevadan’s live.
“A lot of that ozone is caused by interstate transport from California,” said Greg Lovato, the administrator of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. “Health effects for ozone include asthma and a number of other ailments.”