A bill sitting on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would require all newly purchased school buses to be electric starting in 2035 but would provide rural school districts with a 10-year extension.
AB 579 passed the Assembly by a vote of 63-11 on Sept. 12, a day after passing the Senate by a 31-8 vote. If signed into law, it would create sections in the Education Code requiring school districts “where feasible” to only purchase zero-emissions school buses, or electric school buses starting on Jan. 1, 2035.
Starting in 2040, school districts can apply for a one-time extension, not to exceed five years, if district officials can demonstrate it is not feasible to purchase the buses because of local terrain and route constraints. School districts would need to “reasonably demonstrate that a daily planned bus route for transporting pupils to and from school cannot be serviced through available zero-emission technology in 2035.”
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) would be tasked to approve the request in consultation with the California Department of Education and the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission.
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A “frontier local education agency,” namely a rural school district with an average daily attendance of fewer than 600 students and located in a county with a population density of fewer than 10 people per square mile, would need to meet the same requirements to obtain a 5-year extension.
Newsom issued an executive order three years ago requiring all medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses be 100 percent zero-emissions vehicles by 2045. But school buses were exempt because CARB regulates the yellow buses via a separate program.
California would join Connecticut, Maine, Maryland and New York in mandating new purchases or fully zero-emissions fleets over the coming four to 17 years.
This is a developing story.