CHARLESTON, W.Va. — School districts in West Virginia have a new fuel option for powering their school buses: propane.

On Thursday, the West Virginia Board of Education approved a waiver of Policy 4334 (Minimum Requirements for Design and Equipment of School Buses) in favor of adding propane as an alternative fuel source for the state’s school buses.

“The switch will save money and promote a cleaner environment,” said Jorea Marple, West Virginia’s superintendent of schools. “About 3,000 buses currently run every school day in West Virginia and travel over 46 million miles a year. The adoption of propane could save an average of $3,100 per bus annually.”

State pupil transportation director Ben Shew told SBF that the move to approve propane was related to a task force that the governor’s office assembled to evaluate the use of natural gas vehicles for state and local government. The task force was empowered to make recommendations to the governor by the end of September.

Shew said that propane’s price and its availability in West Virginia are key factors in school districts’ interest in the fuel.

“There is interest throughout the state, because our state produces natural gas, thus propane,” he said. “The reduction of fuel cost amounts to over $3,100 annually. ... A three-year ROI is pretty good.”

Propane joins compressed natural gas and biodiesel as approved alternative fuels for West Virginia school buses.