The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing school districts for the application of its new Clean School Bus Program, which is expected to open in late April.
The Clean School Bus Program, which was created with the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law last fall, provides $5 billion over five years and is split evenly for the replacement of zero- and low-emission school buses.
The EPA announced earlier that the first round of funding will be in the form of a rebate program, as that is the fastest funding mechanism for the agency to develop as well as the quickest and most efficient way to move funds to end-users, said Christine Koester, center director at the Office of Transportation and Air Quality for the agency, during a webinar on Wednesday. She noted that the application will be open for about three months, and winners will be selected via a lottery.
However, she noted that the EPA will be prioritizing applicants from high-need school districts, tribal schools and those in rural and low-income areas. The EPA will be publishing a list of applicants that are prioritized, though Koester noted that just because a school district/state entity isn’t on the list, doesn’t mean they’re not eligible to apply.
The EPA is also working on program guidance, which will be available online once its finalized. The agency has also published a resources page to help applicants prepare for the rebate program.
Related: Contractors Face Potential Limitations Over Access to Clean School Bus Funds
Related: Latest EPA NOx Emissions Rulemaking Could Further Increase School Bus Prices
Related: Third Round of Emergency Connectivity Funding to Open Next Month
Related: GreenPower Announces Type A Electric School Bus
The rebate program will make available $500 million, half of which is dedicated only for zero-emissions school buses. The other $250 million is for propane, CNG and zero-emissions school buses. Koester added that the EPA does have the availability to fund additional rebates that can equal just under $1 billion.
Any unused funds would carry over to the next round. She added that per the requirements of the program, no state can receive more than 10 percent of the total amount awarded each fiscal year.
Additionally, the EPA is exploring other funding opportunities, which could include grants and contracts, though no details on what the contracts would look like were provided during the webinar. An EPA spokesperson told STN that the law allows the agency to award contracts to eligible contractors to provide rebates for the replacement of existing school buses with clean and zero-emission school buses. EPA is currently looking into the feasibility of setting up a contract mechanism to award contracts for school bus rebates, the spokesperson added. The agency is also considering a potential voucher incentive program for the fall.