RICHMOND, Va. — A proposed state bill would establish a grant program to help schools to replace their diesel buses with electric buses by 2030 and would help recipients share information about their experiences with the alternative-fuel vehicles.
HB 1140, sponsored by Delegate Mark Keam, would establish by July 1, 2020, the Clean School Bus Grant Fund and require the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) to create a related program to award grants to replace diesel school buses with electric school buses through 2030. The program would award grants on a competitive basis to school boards for the electric buses, charging infrastructure, and maintenance training. Funds would also support developing education outreach to promote the program, provide information on electric school buses and their benefits, and help grant recipients share best practices and lessons learned.
The bill also requires the diesel buses that the electric buses are replacing to be “scrapped” — “crush, shred, or otherwise disassemble or make inoperable” — and does not allow them to be sold, leased, or otherwise still in use. It places priority on replacing aging diesel buses that serve the highest number of students in areas with the highest rates of asthma and lowest air quality, and schools that can generate their own solar power or have battery storage units to augment the amount of power available.
Additionally, HB 1140 requires the DOE to provide annual reports on the program to the General Assembly and make them available to the public.
The bill has an expiration date of July 1, 2030. It was prefiled on Jan. 7 and assigned to the House Education Pre-K-12 Subcommittee on Jan. 13, according to the Virginia State Assembly's website.
HB 1140 was written with input from the Fairfax County team of Mothers Out Front, an organization that works to protect communities from the effects of climate change, WSET reports. The team is planning an event in Richmond to call for state legislators to support the bill on Jan. 21, according to its Facebook page.
The introduction of the bill comes on the heels of the news that Virginia-based power and energy company Dominion Energy is kicking off an electric school bus program with the goals of reducing emissions, providing cost savings to school districts, and enhancing vehicle-to-grid reliability. As School Bus Fleet previously reported, school bus manufacturer Thomas Built Buses will supply 50 of its Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley buses for the first phase of the program. The buses will start operating within Dominion Energy’s Virginia service area by the end of 2020.
With state approval, phase two of the project would expand the program to bring 1,000 electric school buses to the area by 2025. Once phase two is fully implemented, the bus's batteries could provide enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes, Dominion reported in September. Phase three would set the goal of having 50% of all diesel school bus replacements be electric by 2025 and — as HB 1140 also aims for — 100% by 2030.