Amid $5-a-gallon fuel, Michigan clean air advocates on Wednesday urged school districts to apply for electric school bus funding through a new round of grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Clean Bus Program provides schools across the nation $5 billion over the next five years to buy zero-emission, low-emission and electric models of school buses. The current round of applications closes Aug. 19 and is the first phase of funding.
“Up until now, school districts have participated in competitive grants to purchase electric school buses,” Pupil Transportation Executive Director Katrina Morris said. “These buses operate like a traditional school bus, but they have clean emissions.”
In Michigan, 700,000 students are transported to and from school by 13,000 diesel powered school buses.
Seven school districts already use electric school buses, Principle Associate of Pupil Transportation Mac Dashney said.
They are Ann Arbor Public Schools, Roseville Community Schools, Gaylord Community Schools, Kalamazoo Public Schools, Oxford Community Schools, Zeeland Public Schools and Three Rivers Community Schools.
During this first round of applicants for the EPA Clean School Bus Program, some applicants will be considered as priority school districts if they have 20% or more students in poverty, are located in rural areas or are Bureau of Indian Affairs funded schools, MI Air MI Health coalition coordinator and nurse Kindra Weid said.
There is the possibility of more schools using electric if federal grants and the Michigan Legislature combinefunds for the clean emission efforts, Morris said.
“We can significantly increase the number of school districts operating these clean school buses due to the availability of federal infrastructure dollars and by supporting districts purchasing electric school buses for the first time,” Morris said.
A bill introduced to the Michigan House in February would allow school districts more access to their sinking funds to purchase electric school buses and their charging ports.
Some support the accessibility to electric school buses because of the health benefits, Weid said, and because fossil fuel emission can worsen asthma in adolescents.
“When exposed to diesel exhaust, kids are at a higher risk for health problems like asthma, because their lungs are still developing,” Weid said. “Kids riding a diesel fueled bus are standing in line waiting to enter the bus are at the same height as the tailpipe and their exposed to this toxic pollution.”
Executive Director of Clean Fuels Michigan Jane McCurry said another benefit is buying electric school buses boosts economy.
“Transit and school bus fleets have been long underfunded and yet are one of the most promising opportunities for investing in vehicles that create benefits community wide,” McCurry said. “One of those many benefits are economic benefits like creating more jobs.”
Schools can apply online at the U.S. EPA website for up to $375,000 per replacement for an electric buses. Eligible schools are able to receive up to 25 electric buses to replace diesel fueled buses.