The Biden-Harris Administration through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that $500 million is now available for school districts and other eligible school bus operators and contractors to begin replacing the nation’s fleet of school buses with clean, American-made, zero-emission buses. This $500 million represents the first round of funding out of the unprecedented $5 billion investment for low and zero-emission school buses over the next five years, secured through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).
Last Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris, Administrator Michael S. Regan and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu visited Meridian High School in Falls Church, Virginia to make the announcement and highlight how it will reduce greenhouse gas pollution, provide cleaner air around schools and communities, and better protect children’s health. The investment will also drive demand for American-made batteries and vehicles, boost domestic manufacturing, and create well-paying jobs. The new funding is made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which invests an unprecedented $5 billion for low- and zero-emission school buses over the next five years.
“This funding is a historic opportunity to reduce emissions from our nation’s school bus fleet, advance electric bus technologies and help protect our children from harmful diesel pollution while also helping the climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “School districts in the Pacific Southwest are highly encouraged to apply to the BIL Clean School Bus Program.”
Diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other health problems that hurt our communities and cause students to miss school, particularly in communities of color and Tribal communities. New, zero-emission and low-emission buses will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but produce cleaner air for students, bus drivers, school staff working near the bus loading areas, and the communities that the buses drive through each day.
The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from these bus replacements will help to address the outsized role of the transportation sector on fueling climate change. In addition, zero-emission buses cost less for school districts to operate than diesel buses, and the electricity stored in zero-emission school buses can transmit energy back to the grid to meet extra energy demand or provide energy to communities during power outages.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allows EPA to prioritize applications that will replace buses serving high-need education agencies, Tribal Schools, and rural areas. This approach supports President Biden’s Justice40 initiative to direct at least 40% of the benefits of certain government investments to underserved communities.
EPA’s Clean School Bus Program will strive to meet this commitment and advance environmental justice and equity considerations into all aspects of our work. In addition, EPA will focus education and outreach efforts to underserved communities, including partnering with stakeholders to reach communities that may have never applied for a Federal grant or rebate. Portions of the rebates can also be used to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure so that schools can make chargers available for the new buses. The rebate program will select awardees through a lottery system.
This is the first competition that EPA is running through the Clean School Bus program. The Agency will also launch a grant competition later this year. Further Clean School Bus competitions funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be run every year over the next five years.
EPA is accepting applications until August 19, 2022.