The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced it would nearly double the funding awarded for clean school buses this year following increased demand, with school districts from all 50 states applying for the 2022 Clean School Bus Rebates.
This is the first round of funding from the EPA Clean School Bus Program, which President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created with a historic $5 billion investment for low- and zero-emission school buses over the next five years.
In May, EPA had announced the 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.
EPA will move swiftly to review applications submitted and expects to issue a robust slate of awards next month. EPA is also designing the next rounds of program funding to launch in the coming months, which will include an ambitious grant competition. Through future rounds of funding, EPA will make available another $1 billion 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.”
“[This] 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 Senator Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of 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 an outstanding response from 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.
The Clean School Bus Program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce cleaner air for students, bus drivers, and school staff working near the bus loading areas, and the communities through which the buses drive each day. Diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other conditions that harm students’ health and cause them to miss school, particularly in communities of color and Tribal communities. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from these bus replacements will also help to address the outsized role of the transportation sector in fueling the climate crisis. School districts can save money by upgrading their fleets.
The 2022 Clean School Bus Rebates prioritizes low-income, rural, and Tribal communities. The vast majority of applicants met the priority definition under the 2022 Clean School Bus Rebates criteria, resulting in access to more funds for buses and electric vehicle infrastructure for schools in areas that need them the most. The program also delivers on President Biden’s Justice40 commitment, which aims to deliver 40% of benefits from certain federal programs to underserved or overburdened communities.
EPA is currently reviewing submitted applications to determine eligibility and make final selections. EPA anticipates notifying rebate applicants of their selection status in October 2022. Once notified, selected school districts can proceed with purchasing new buses and eligible infrastructure. Selectees will need to submit Payment Request Forms with purchase orders demonstrating they have ordered new buses and eligible infrastructure. After the selectees submit the proper forms, they will be eligible to receive rebate funds.
This is the first of several funding opportunities for the multi-year Clean School Bus Program. EPA anticipates running both a grant competition and another rebate program in 2023. The agency encourages school districts not selected in the first round of rebates – and those that did not apply this funding cycle – to participate in future rounds.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides EPA with an unprecedented $5 billion opportunity to fund the replacement of older school buses with new zero- and low-emissions buses over a five-year period and jump-start the transition to zero emission in our schools.
For more information, visit the EPA Clean School Bus Program website.
Prepared by the EPA.