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Clean School Bus program benefits schools and the environment, officials say

Local, state, and federal officials highlighted the benefits of electric school buses for students, schools and the environment during a press conference in Ann Arbor on Monday.

Representatives from the Biden administration, the EPA, and Ann Arbor Public Schools, as well as Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI 6) spoke about the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program. The program is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and gives schools and districts money to purchase electric and propane-powered school buses.

In May, the program awarded $24 million to Michigan schools and districts, including $800,000 to Ann Arbor Public Schools. The transition to clean transportation is part of federal, state, and local initiatives to reduce carbon emissions.

Speakers at the press conference cited improved air quality, lower maintenance costs, and lower emissions in their remarks. Dingell said the program represents the federal government’s commitment to fighting climate change.

“Our young people are 25% of our population. They are 100% of our future,” she said. “They're sending the message, they're advocating. They're telling us, ‘Get the job done.’ Today, this is part of getting the job done.”

Jazz Parks, interim superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools, said the new buses would also cost the district less money over their lifetime.

“These buses, powered by clean energy, will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also save money in the long run,” she said. The school district is resolving a $25 million shortfall in its budget.

Michigan schools and districts have received $76.6 million in grants and rebates from the program so far. That’s bought 267 electric and propane school buses across 55 school districts, officials said. During the latest round of funding, only about 20% of applications from Michigan were selected, the EPA said at the press conference.

Applications for 2023 rebates and grants from the Clean School Bus program are closed, but more federal money is available for school districts through the Clean Heavy-Duty Vehicles Program, which includes school buses.

Michigan has its own clean school bus program coming soon. In March, the state legislature allotted $125 million to help qualifying schools and districts buy electric buses. Phillip Roos, director of the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, said the additional funds will speed up the state fleet’s transition to all-clean buses.

“We're really encouraging schools to pursue those available grants and keep the momentum going,” he said. The Michigan Association of Pupil Transportation is hosting an informational seminar on Wednesday, June 12, at 9 a.m. to help school districts with the process. Applications are open until July 12, 2024.

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