School Districts Blocked from Participating in EPA Clean Bus Program

Districts that don’t own their buses face distinct disadvantages.   January 13, 2023

By Dave Lubach, Managing Editor

The Environmental Protection Agency’s clean school bus program has hit a snag for some school districts wishing to participate. 

When Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure law last year, it allotted $5 billion over the next five years to help school districts make the switch to clean energy school buses. But some districts will be unable to participate in the program because of a requirement to scrap old buses. 

The first round of funding allows for districts to apply for grants to replace up to 25 diesel buses with electric or low-emission buses that are propane or compressed natural gas-powered. However, for school districts that don’t own their own buses, this is a problem, as Inside Climate News described recently

A number of schools in the Chicago area are unable to participate in the program because they don’t own their own buses. Many of these districts also are located in low-income communities that are unable to purchase their own fleets which means they must rely on the bus companies to make the conversion. 

“With shortages, with COVID and things of that nature, we have very little leverage in negotiating costs of those services,” says a superintendent of one of the involved districts. “This was a prime opportunity for us to have some leverage to help balance the cost of providing transportation services to our families.” 

Other states that have expressed concern over the scrapping buses provision are New York and Louisiana. 

The EPA started awarding grants in October of 2022, when 389 school districts received $1 billion. EPA says the districts were selected via lottery, with low-income, rural and tribal communities receiving some level of priority. 

Dave Lubach is managing editor of the facilities market. 


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