The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has extended the application deadline for its Texas Clean School Bus Grant Program to Dec. 14. The TCEQ provides grant money to purchase and install devices on school buses to reduce emissions.
All sizes of diesel school buses are eligible as long as they operate on a regular, daily route to and from school and have at least five years of service life remaining. The request for grant applications may be downloaded from the organization's website.
The statement came three days after the EDF issued a comprehensive new report "Review of Texas' Clean School Bus Programs: How Far Have We Come and What Is Still Left to Do?" that evaluates clean school bus programs in Texas, reviews accomplishments and makes recommendations for improvement.
In recent years Texas has made significant progress with clean bus programs. Through the end of 2011, 7,068 buses were retrofitted, 700 buses were replaced and several other projects related to clean fuels and idle reduction were implemented statewide. More than $38 million has been invested in these projects by the federal and state government as well as local donors.
In addition, some of the larger school districts are starting to switch to propane autogas for its economical and environmental benefits. Texas and California lead the nation in the number of propane filling stations.
“I’m thrilled to see the progress we’ve made with the Texas clean school bus programs,” said Elena Craft, health scientist at EDF. “But our work is not finished. I hope that school districts will take advantage of available programs and remaining funds to clean up the older, more polluting school buses.”
As of the 2010–2011 school year, the Texas Education Agency reported that nearly two-thirds of current school buses were more than six years old. These buses can emit 10 times more particulate matter (PM) than older buses and much more in cases where a large proportion of the fleet is even older. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is especially concerned with these tiny particles because they are known to aggravate asthma, lead to heart problems and increase the risk of cancer. Texas schoolchildren who ride buses built before 2007 may be breathing air inside the cabin of the bus that contains 5 to 10 times higher the amount of diesel pollution than found outside the bus, according to the EDF.
Currently, two programs are available to help retrofit or replace the remaining 17,000 older diesel schools buses in the state. Under the Texas Clean School Bus Program, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is accepting applications for grants through Nov. 30. All public school districts and charter schools in Texas are eligible to apply for this grant, including school districts that lease buses. Private schools are not eligible for funding.
EPA also launched a new rebate funding opportunity for school bus replacements under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), with applications being accepted from Nov. 13 to Dec. 14. The first round of rebates will be offered as part of a pilot program and will focus on the replacement of older school buses in both public and private fleets.
As this report was being finalized, a $1 million DERA award had just been awarded to Aldine ISD in the Houston area to retrofit 65 school buses. The Houston region is leading the way in retrofitting and replacing school buses that run on diesel fuel.
"Houston's program has actually accounted for the lion's share of replacement of all buses across the state, so about 70 percent of the new buses in Texas are in the Houston region. That's great for Houston and that's great for the kids who are riding to school in buses in Houston," Craft added.