$500 Million For Electric School Buses That Reduce Pollution, Save Money, & Protect Health — Thanks, Biden

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This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of at least $500 million in funding from the Clean School Bus rebate competition that is transforming school bus fleets across America and protecting children from air pollution. This second round of funding will build on the previous nearly $1 billion investment to further improve air quality in and around schools, reduce greenhouse gas pollution fueling the climate crisis, and help accelerate America’s leadership in developing the clean vehicles of the future.

“Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, more students, teachers, and staff are breathing easier this school year as brand-new clean school buses are hitting the road in communities across America,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “We’ve seen incredible demand for this program from school districts that want to benefit from the transition to cleaner school buses, leading to cost savings for districts, better air quality, and less pollution. We’re committed to building on this work and continuing to accelerate the transition of America’s school bus fleet.”

“Clean school buses mean clean air and a brighter future for our students,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “I fought to deliver robust funding that deploys clean school buses across the country and across New York, and I am proud to see EPA and the Biden-Harris Administration getting that funding out to our school districts as the school year begins. Clean air, tackling climate change, and cost savings is a win-win-win.”

“It’s no surprise that we are seeing such a strong demand for clean school buses across our country,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper (DE), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “By replacing older school buses with cleaner buses, we improve air quality for students, teachers, and other school officials, while reducing planet-warming pollution and supporting American manufacturing jobs. I applaud the Biden administration for using the unprecedented investments we made in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to deliver clean school buses to more and more of our nation’s school districts.”

EPA’s Clean School Bus Program was created by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides an unprecedented $5 billion of funding to transform the nation’s fleet of school buses. The Clean School Bus Program funds electric buses, which produce zero tailpipe emissions, as well as propane and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses that produce lower tailpipe emissions compared to their older diesel predecessors.

Diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other public health problems that cause serious health concerns and missed days of school, with outsized impacts in overburdened communities. New zero- and low-emission buses will not only reduce air pollution and help address the outsized role of the transportation sector on climate change, but will also produce cleaner air for students, bus drivers, school staff working near bus loading areas, and people living in communities that buses drive through each day. And over the lifespan of the vehicles, clean school buses can also cost less to maintain and fuel than the older buses they are replacing – freeing up needed resources for schools.

EPA’s 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate Program received enthusiastic interest and has awarded approximately $965 million to support the purchase of about 2,600 buses, 95% of which are electric. These rebates were awarded to approximately 400 school districts in nearly all 50 states and Washington D.C., along with several federally recognized Tribes and U.S. Territories. School districts identified as priority areas serving low-income, rural, and, or Tribal students make up 99% of the projects that were selected.

In April 2023, EPA announced the availability of at least $400 million in grants that will fund electric, propane, and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses that produce either zero or low tailpipe emissions compared to their older diesel counterparts. This application period is now closed and EPA anticipates announcing selections for the grant program this winter.

The word is out – school districts across the country have jumped at the opportunity to replace dirty diesel buses with cleaner school buses through the Clean School Bus program,” said Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29). “President Biden’s investment in electrifying America’s massive school bus fleet has been met with an unprecedented demand. I commend the Environmental Protection Agency for making more funds available to our school districts to improve the air-quality to protect the health of our communities and achieve a clean commute for America’s students.”

“The electrification of our fleet — and especially school buses — is vital to our region. It will improve the air quality for young students across Houston and reduce asthma and other public health problems associated with increased particulate matter produced by diesel engines. As the former Chair of Climate Mayors, these are exactly the type of investments that communities need,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I applaud the Biden-Harris Administration for making these needed investments.”

The 2023 Clean School Bus Rebate Competition

This year’s $500 million Clean School Bus Rebate Program will provide a combined funding amount to cover bus, workforce development costs, and infrastructure costs for awardees requesting electric school buses. Applicants can request up to $345,000 per bus. Selectees may be eligible for Inflation Reduction Act tax credits applicable to their bus and infrastructure purchases. For example, the clean vehicle tax credits for qualifying school buses are worth up to $40,000. Narrowing the cost difference between clean school buses and diesel school buses remains an integral goal of EPA’s CSB Program and the agency adjusted electric school bus funding levels in this rebate program to help stretch funding further and drive down long-term electric school bus market costs.

The amount of funding per bus will depend on the applicant’s prioritization status, as well as the type and size of bus replacement(s) requested. EPA will prioritize applications that will replace buses serving low-income, rural, and Tribal communities. Large school districts with communities of concentrated poverty also will be prioritized if their application focuses on clean school buses serving those communities.

EPA is committed to ensuring the Clean School Bus Program advances environmental justice and delivers on the President’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that at least 40% of the benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities. In addition, EPA will conduct outreach to underserved communities, including partnering with stakeholders to reach communities that may have never applied for a Federal rebate.

The Biden-Harris Administration is similarly committed to investing federal dollars in a responsible way that drives high-quality job creation and inclusive economic growth in the clean energy economy. It’s a priority for EPA that school districts prepare for how to support their workers, including bus drivers, mechanics, and other essential personnel, to safely operate and maintain the new buses and maintain high labor standards. As a result, workforce training is an eligible use of program funds, and EPA strongly encourages school districts to develop comprehensive workforce plans in partnership with their employees to help them prepare for the transition to clean school buses. EPA also requires all electricians installing and maintaining electric infrastructure with this funding to be certified in the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVTIP) to guarantee the equipment is safely installed by properly trained workers.

Additionally, EPA wants to see high-quality jobs with the free and fair choice to join a union for the workers across the country manufacturing clean school buses. EPA has collaborated with clean school bus manufacturers to publish information about their workforce development and job quality practices on the Clean School Bus website that funding recipients are encouraged to review. EPA has also published workforce development resources for school districts and will continue to provide additional materials to assist districts with successful bus deployment.

EPA is also working closely with the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation (JOET) to provide school districts with support as they plan for and implement adding electric school buses to their fleet. Clean School Bus Program applicants and participants can receive technical assistance from JOET through one-on-one meetings, public webinars, and coordination on resource materials.

Finally, EPA has learned from previous funding opportunities and stakeholder feedback that proactive and ongoing communication with key stakeholders like school boards and local utilities is critical to successful bus and infrastructure deployment. As such, all applicants must submit certification that the school board was made aware of the application, applicants requesting rebates for electric buses must submit documentation confirming they initiated the infrastructure planning process with their local utility, and third-party applicants must submit documentation confirming the school district is aware and supportive of the Clean School Bus deployment project. Additional details on all required application materials are available in the Program Guide on the Clean School Bus Program webpage.

EPA is accepting rebate applications from September 28, 2023 until January 31, 2024.

To learn more about the rebate program, applicant eligibility, selection process, and informational webinar dates, visit the Clean School Bus Program webpage. Questions about applying may be directed to CleanSchoolBus@epa.gov.

Official news from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Related story: Governor Hochul Announces $100 Million Available for Zero-Emission School Buses

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