EPA received about 2,000 applications seeking $4 billion for more than 12,000 school buses - 90%...

EPA received about 2,000 applications seeking $4 billion for more than 12,000 school buses - 90% of them zero-emission electric.

File Photo: Lexi Tucker

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is nearly doubling the funds to be awarded for its Clean School Bus Program based on increased demand for 2022 rebates.

It’s the first round of funding from the program, created as part of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law with an investment of $5 billion total for low- and zero-emission school buses over the next five years.

In May, EPA announced availability of $500 million, “but given overwhelming demand from school districts across the country, including in low-income communities, tribal nations, and territories, EPA is nearly doubling the amount of funding that will be awarded to $965 million,” according to a news release.

EPA plans to swiftly review applications and issue a slate of awards in October. The agency’s also developing the next rounds of funding to launch in the coming months, including a grant competition. Another $1 billion should be available for clean school buses in Fiscal Year 2023.

“Thanks to the leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration and the president’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re working across all 50 states to accelerate the transition to a future where clean, zero-emissions school buses are the American standard,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “America’s school districts delivered this message loud and clear – we must replace older, dirty diesel school buses. Together, we can reduce climate pollution, improve air quality, and reduce the risk of health impacts like asthma for as many as 25 million children who ride the bus every day.”

“Today’s announcement reflects what we know to be true—school districts across our country are eager to replace their heavy-polluting school buses with cleaner alternatives.” said Sen. Tom Carper (D.-Del.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “I’m especially pleased to see that there is high demand for electric buses among low income, tribal, and other disadvantaged communities. These are the very communities that stand to gain the most from our historic clean school bus investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Given the response to the availability of these dollars, it’s clear that more funding is needed. I look forward to working with Administrator Regan, the rest of the Biden Administration, and my colleagues in Congress to build on this progress so that more communities can realize the clean air and energy saving benefits of these cleaner vehicles.”

“This is a huge win for our nation’s children and our fight against the climate crisis,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. “School districts across the country have long recognized the tremendous benefits of zero-emission electric school buses for protecting both our environment and our children’s health. With today’s announcement, I’m thrilled we are making significant progress toward safeguarding both. I encourage every school district to apply and look forward to seeing this important program in action.”

The rebate application period closed in August with school districts seeking to purchase electric and low-emission school buses across the country. EPA received around 2,000 applications requesting nearly $4 billion for over 12,000 buses. More than 90 percent of buses requested were for zero-emission electric buses.  Nearly 9 percent of applications were for propane buses and 1 percent were for compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.

The applicant pool includes submissions from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and federally recognized tribes.