SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Legislation that could provide funding to retrofit school buses with emissions-control equipment was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week.
Existing law authorizes specified air pollution control and air quality management districts to adopt a fee of up to $6 applicable to motor vehicles registered in counties within those districts, and requires the fee to be collected by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Revenues from the first $4 of the fee are required to be used for specified purposes, while the revenues from the last $2 of the fee are to be used for specified programs that the district determines will help to reduce pollution caused by motor vehicles, including the purchase of new school buses.
Assembly Bill 470 will expand the potential use of this funding by authorizing a district to put the last $2 of the vehicle registration fee toward retrofitting emissions-control equipment on existing school buses.
Mike Rea told SBF in an interview this week that based on his understanding of the bill, it will be effective. (Rea serves as a representative of the California Association of School Transportation Officials (CASTO) on the executive committee of the School Transportation Coalition, which has worked with California Air Resources Board officials on various issues related to school buses. Rea is also executive director of West County Transportation Agency in Santa Rosa, Calif.)
“For a district that wants to be in compliance with the California Air Resources Board Truck and Bus rules, and if they can receive funding for particulate matter devices, this will be additional local funding that can assist them with their compliance,” Rea said, noting, however, that for districts that struggle with the operational challenges of particulate matter devices, it will not be helpful.
Rea added that the next step will be for local air districts to adopt a funding program for using the vehicle registration fee money. He said that CASTO is hopeful that many air districts will, but the association is cautiously optimistic, as there is competition for those dollars since it is used to fund other programs, not just the school bus component.
CASTO is also following the progress of Assembly Bill 462, which passed in the Assembly on Monday and is expected to be signed by the governor, Rea said.
This bill would authorize an air quality management district to use the last $2 of the vehicle registration fee for programs to replace onboard natural gas tanks on school buses owned by a school district that are 14 years or older. The funding amount could not exceed $20,000 per bus.
The $2 could also go toward enhancing deteriorating natural gas fueling dispensers operated by a school district, with a one-time funding amount not to exceed $500 per dispenser.
Assembly Bill 470 will take effect Jan. 1, 2012; Assembly Bill 462 will also take effect on that day if it is signed into law.