AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill here seeks to facilitate the transition of all of Maine’s public school buses to electric school buses beginning this year.
L.D. No. 1894, sponsored by Sen. Eloise Vitelli, would set a goal for the Maine Department of Education (DOE) to make the transition by 2040; develop rules governing electric bus bids, specifications, and charging stations, as well as a maintenance training program; and begin the process this year. The bill requires the DOE to put aside a percentage of available resources for "small" electric school buses “with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, as replacements in or additions to the school bus fleet in the 2020 request for proposals.”
Kelli Deveaux, the director of communications for the Maine DOE, told School Bus Fleet that the agency and administration “supports the concept and vision of and encourages the initial conversations about the bill.”
Pat Hinckley, the facilities, safety and transportation administrator for the DOE, was among more than a dozen people who submitted testimony for a hearing on the bill on Jan. 15. In her testimony, Hinckley stated that the agency has concerns with L.D. No. 1894 as it is currently written. The concerns, Hinckley stated, are related to an expected need for more funding as well as creating and facilitating technical training sessions.
“The expenses associated with these efforts would be shared by the [DOE] and local municipalities,” Hinckley added in her testimony.
The bill was submitted to the state Senate on Dec. 20 and referred to the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, according to the Maine Legislature’s website. It includes an emergency clause that refers to the “substantial and immediate” threat from climate change “to the economy, natural resources, and public health of the state.” The clause would spur the legislation to take effect as soon as the bill is approved.
Approximately 3,156 yellow school buses run in the state, according to recent research conducted by School Bus Fleet.
This bill follows a piece of legislation in Virginia that would establish a grant program to help schools to replace all their diesel buses with electric buses by 2030 and would help recipients share information about their experiences with the alternative-fuel vehicles.
Meanwhile, as SBF previously reported, nearby Vermont selected three school districts and one transit agency for an electric bus pilot program that is supported by Volkswagen (VW) settlement funds in December. The two-year pilot program will be administered by the Vermont Energy Investment Corp. to evaluate electric school and transit bus operations in the state.