The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the opening of its year-two Clean School Bus Program (CSBP) rebate that offers $500 million to school districts, with an increased emphasis on so-called non-priority school districts.
Last year’s rebate and the competitive grant that closed in August prioritized school districts and tribal governments in historically impoverished areas. According to environmental advocates on a call with EPA officials on Wednesday, an unintended consequence was that other school districts that also serve disadvantaged students were dissuaded from applying.
By the Numbers
The 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate Program received 2,000 applications, prompting EPA to double the available funds to nearly $1 billion. More than 400 applications were selected to replace about 2,600 buses, 95 percent of which will be electric.
Source: EPA Clean School Bus Program
2nd Report to Congress
This year, at least 40 percent of the funds are earmarked for disadvantaged school districts that have yet to apply for Clean School Bus Program money because they do not meet eligibility under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s definition of persistent poverty. Last year, large school districts like Los Angeles Unified School District and Chicago Public Schools decried not being considered a priority school district.
“Large school districts with communities of concentrated poverty also will be prioritized if their application focuses on clean school buses serving those communities,” EPA said in a statement on Thursday when announcing the rebate.
Prioritized school districts, tribal organizations and U.S. Territories will still receive larger sums, topping out at $345,000 per Class 7 or 8 electric school bus and charging infrastructure “behind the meter,” $265,000 for a Class 3-6 electric school bus and infrastructure. Class 7 and 8 propane school buses top out at $35,000 while Class 3-6 propane receive up to $30,000. A CNG Class 7 or 8 are eligible for up to $45,000 and Class 3-6 CNG get up to $30,000.
Non-prioritized districts can receive up to $200,000 per electric school bus and charging infrastructure. Propane Class 7 and 8 get up to $25,000 and Class 3-6 get up to $20,000. CNG Class 7 and 8 get up to $30,000 and Class 3-6 up to $20,000.
Repowered electric and biofuel school buses are ineligible. What has changed this year is school buses must be at least a 2022 model year. Buses must also be in service for at least five years from the date of delivery. If a contractor-owned bus, it must be moved to a school district or tribal government that meets the priority status of serving disadvantaged areas.
Charging infrastructure eligible for funding can include the charging equipment (DC Fast Chargers and EPA Energy Star certified AC Level 2 chargers), design and engineering, installation costs, related software designed to monitor the bus and infrastructure performance, and battery energy storage systems.
Like last year’s rebate, both groups can apply for one to 25 buses and infrastructure, with EPA prioritizing applications for electric vehicles. Additionally, they can apply for $40,000 in Clean Vehicle Tax Credits for qualifying school buses and up to $100,000 in Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit under the Inflation Reduction Act. EPA said most award selectees will be eligible for these credits.
“Narrowing the cost difference between clean school buses and diesel school buses remains an integral goal of EPA’s CSB Program and the agency adjusted electric school bus funding levels in this rebate program to help stretch funding further and drive down long-term electric school bus market costs,” EPA added.
The rebate allows for consulting fees and workforce training to be included in the total amount, if added as a line item, and adds $20,000 for wheelchair lifts.
As with this summer’s competitive grant, third-party contractors may apply for funds alongside school districts, tribal governments, and other government agencies that oversee student transportation services.
Eligible fleets in Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. Territories can receive an additional $20,000 for increased transportation and shipping fees to receive their school buses.
Addressing some grant awards last year that came as a surprise to school district recipients, the rebate requires all applicants to submit certification that the school board is aware of the application. “Applicants requesting rebates for electric buses must submit documentation confirming they initiated the infrastructure planning process with their local utility, and third-party applicants must submit documentation confirming the school district is aware and supportive of the Clean School Bus deployment project,” EPA stated.
Recognizing uncertainty around a potential federal government shutdown, EPA made the rebate application window four months long instead of three, with a due date of Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. Eastern. As with the previous Clean School Bus Funding, applicants need to set up an account or verify existing accounts at SAM.gov.
EPA was holding the first of several webinars online Thursday.
Related: EPA to Highlight Transition to Clean School Buses After Historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Investment
Related: Update: EPA Announces Latest Clean School Bus Program Grants
Related: Clean School Bus Program Amendments Allow Contractors Direct Access to Funds