School districts have a number of options and opportunities for everything from identifying grant fund projects for alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure to obtaining help in grant writing, a Clean Cities expert told STN webinar viewers on Tuesday.
Richard Battersby, the coordinator and executive director of the East Bay Clean Cities Coalition in Oakland, California, pointed to hundreds of Clean Cities coalitions across the country as well as U.S. Department of Energy regional contacts and state environmental quality agencies as potential sources of information on clean-air options, which include today's clean diesel buses in addition to propane, CNG and others.
"You're not on your own," he said during the presentation Clean Air Vehicle Funding Sources, part of the School Transportation News webinar network.
While many seeking funds look only to the federal level, for example the EPA, Battersby said most grant opportunities exist at the state or local level. Whereas the dollar pool is generally larger at the federal level, the grant funding process can be simpler closer to home. For example, the feds can require much more paperwork.
"Perhaps it's easier and faster to apply for local grant fund opportunities, but the dollar amount may be lower," he added. "That doesn't mean don't do it."
Battersby said each state has an energy office responsible for overseeing both federal and state money for alternative fuel vehicle and infrastructure purchases. Beyond that, he advised school districts to reach out to local transit authorities, for example, to piggyback or "draft" on existing grant projects. He gave the example of a transit agency that applies for a natural gas fueling grant that can also be constructed and piped into school bus facilities.
"Partnering with other folks spreads the responsibilities and reduces the workload for districts," he said.
Back at the federal level, Battersby said funding opportunities don't end with the Department of Energy or EPA. While per-gallon credits expired last year, some of the most overlooked options exist from the IRS, of all agencies. Tax credits and rebates remain for LPG and CNG stations or, if districts are really ambitious, hydrogen or electric.
"Most folks don't associate the IRS with funding opportunities," he added. "But there are opportunities for clean air vehicles."
It all comes down on knowing where to look. He provided numerous links to state and federal agencies, including the Alternative Fuel Data Center and the National Association of State Energy Officials. He also said school districts should not limit their searches to school bus funding but focus instead on getting rid of older, diesel vehicles.
Battersby, who presented at last month's STN EXPO in Reno, Nevada, is also the fleet manager for the City of Oakland and has 25 years of experience with alternative fuels. He also holds more than 40 ASE certifications.