Phil Ting, a California State Assembly member from San Francisco (center), authored the legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. - Photo: California State Assemblymember Phil Ting

Phil Ting, a California State Assembly member from San Francisco (center), authored the legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Photo: California State Assemblymember Phil Ting

Governor Gavin Newsom over the weekend signed into law Assembly Bill 579, which calls for all of California’s new school bus purchases or leases to be zero-emission after 2035.

What's In the California School Bus Legislation

“Signing this bill demonstrates our state’s commitment to maintaining a healthy environment for our children through improved air quality,” Newsom wrote to the California State Assembly in a letter on Oct. 8. “California is steadfast in supporting a smooth and successful transition to zero-emissions vehicles, including school buses.”

The bill authorizes local education agencies to request a one-time extension of up to five years if making the transition to zero-emission school buses isn’t immediately feasible due to both terrain and route constraints. The bill also allows extensions for frontier school districts through Jan. 1, 2045 if certain conditions are met.

Said Newsom: “As the bill’s Jan. 1, 2035, implementation date approaches, I strongly encourage future legislatures and administrations to monitor zero-emission school bus technology improvements to ensure these vehicles meet the range needs of school districts and are affordably priced.”

The signing came after Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco, author of the legislation, urged action from the governor. Ting lamented that only 560, or 2%, of the buses in California’s entire school transportation fleet is currently zero emission.

“The health and environmental benefits of getting more zero-emission school buses on the road are tremendous, yet California lags in utilizing them,” Ting said.

Dr. Knox Kelly, an internist with Climate Health Now, shared Ting’s concerns, saying: “Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen. Kids who ride diesel buses have up to four times the exposure to this exhaust than people in cars riding next to the bus. Electric school buses have no tailpipe emissions, can improve community resilience, and are less expensive to fuel and maintain.”

WRI Hails "Full-Circle Moment" for California's EV Effort

The World Resources Institute notes that California leads when it comes to “committed” electric school buses since the advent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program. Currently, according to WRI, the state has 2,078 electric buses awarded funding, ordered, delivered, or in operation.

“This is a full circle moment for California,” said Sue Gander, director of WRI’s Electric School Bus Initiative. “Nearly 10 years ago, three school districts in California deployed the country’s first electric school buses, and within a decade, state leaders have now taken this critical step to ensure all students across the state will benefit from a clean commute to school.”

The WRI praised Newsom and Ting for matching state funding with their new fleet transition commitment.

“For this one-two combination to successfully and equitably electrify the state’s school bus fleet, it’s essential that the state prioritize those most impacted by on-road pollution in their funding programs and support all districts with technical assistance and workforce development.”

About the author
Wes Platt

Wes Platt

Executive Editor

Wes Platt joined Bobit in 2021 as executive editor of School Bus Fleet Magazine. He writes and edits content about student transportation, school bus manufacturers and equipment, legislative issues, maintenance, fleet contracting, and school transportation technology - from classic yellow diesel buses to the latest EPA-funded electric, propane, and CNG vehicles.

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