A California School Bus Program represents another significant stride toward cleaner air, standing out as one of the latest endeavors to enhance public health and safeguard the environment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that it has selected five applicants in California who will receive more than $88 million through the organization’s Clean School Bus Program Grants Competition.
The award will go toward purchasing clean school buses in school districts across the state, with the goal of improving air quality for families by transitioning to low- and zero-emission vehicles.
Who Is Receiving The Bus Program Grant Dollars?
The recipients of the Clean School Bus Program Grants Competition funds are:
- Zum Services Inc., which will receive just over $26.5 million to purchase 80 clean school buses
- Porterville Unified School District, which will receive nearly $14 million to purchase 35 clean school buses
- Los Angeles Unified School District, which will receive nearly $20 million to purchase 50 clean school buses
- San Diego Unified School District, which will receive just over $12.4 million to buy 30 clean school buses
- Kern High School District, which will receive just over $15.4 million to purchase 39 clean school buses
California is also expected to receive funding through third-party applicants who work with multiple states, including First Student Inc., which will receive nearly $15.8 million to purchase 45 buses in California and Arizona.
What Is The Clean School Bus Program?
President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law paved the way for the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program. This initiative supports electric buses with zero tailpipe emissions, as well as propane and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, which exhibit lower tailpipe emissions compared to their older diesel counterparts.
With a focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Clean School Bus Program aims to not only benefit the environment but also generate cost savings for school districts and foster cleaner air. The connection between air pollution from older diesel engines and health issues, particularly affecting students in communities of color and Tribal communities, underscores the program’s significance.
By mitigating the impact of these engines, the initiative strives to ensure a healthier environment for students, bus drivers, school staff and surrounding communities.
Beyond the immediate health benefits, the program addresses the transportation sector’s role in fueling the climate crisis by significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from bus replacements. This transition to cost-saving and fuel-efficient school bus fleets is a win-win for school districts, allowing them to upgrade their buses while freeing up essential resources for schools.
In April 2023, the EPA announced the availability of a minimum of $400 million for its 2023 Clean School Bus Grants through a Notice of Funding Opportunity.
Why Are Clean School Bus Grants Important?
The funding will help districts take the needed steps to reduce diesel tailpipe emissions by replacing traditional diesel school buses with zero- or low-emission school buses.
Air pollution can lead to health issues or cause them to worsen. For example, air pollution is linked to respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Exposure to air pollution also has been associated with cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes and an increased risk of lung cancer. It can exacerbate existing health conditions and impact overall respiratory and cardiovascular health.
With students, health issues such as these can cause them to miss school, hurting academic success. By phasing out older diesel engines, the goal of the program is to help improve air quality for students and their families, according to the EPA.
Even for those who may not think these newest initiatives impact them, the Clean School Bus Program serves as another compelling example aimed at fostering greener technology adoption across various sectors, emphasizing the broader commitment to environmental sustainability and responsible practices.
How Will Success Be Ensured?
School districts will work with their EPA Regional Project Officers to finalize any plans for the project, including the purchasing of the new buses and any required infrastructure. According to the EPA, the federal organization has also partnered with the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation to offer those receiving the grant assistance to ensure they are successful in implementing their plans.
Districts must submit a Utility Partnership Agreement, which will verify that the school district’s utility provider is aware of any rebate applications.
Is There Additional Funding?
These latest districts to receive funding for the Clean School Bus program are among the first to receive the grants. The EPA says it plans to make more funds available for future rounds, and the organization is currently accepting applications for the 2023 Clean School Bus Rebate Program through Jan. 31, 2024.
Districts that have not been selected or have not applied are encouraged to apply for future funding rounds, according to the EPA.