President Joe Biden will sign into law $5 billion in new federal funding over five years for electric and low-emissions school buses.
The House on Friday voted 228-206 to pass essentially the same legislation approved by the Senate over the summer. Only seven Republican representatives voted for the House version while four Democrats voted against it.
At 1,039 pages, the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act retains $2.5 billion for new “zero-emissions” or electric school bus purchases and $2.5 billion for “low-emissions” school buses, including CNG, propane and biofuels under a new Clean School Bus Program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The funds will be awarded in $1 billion increments ($500 million each for zero emissions and low emissions) over fiscal years 2022-2026.
Eligible recipients for grants or rebates include school districts, bus contractors, nonprofit associations and tribal governments.
The legislation funds up to 100 percent of the bus and infrastructure purchases, but they cannot include “a power unit or other technology that creates air pollution within the school bus, such as an unvented diesel passenger heater.”
An education and outreach program explaining the awards will be developed no later than 120 days after the law’s enactment.
The bill also requires a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) within two years that summarizes all state laws on illegally passing school buses, implements a new public safety messaging campaign, and evaluates safety technologies currently in use. The DOT will also draw correlations between illegal passing and distracted driving, poor visibility of motorists in predawn or dusk hours, illumination and reach of vehicle headlights, speed limits and school bus stop characteristics. The report will also include recommendations to states for improving driver education on school buses, with a focus on new drivers.
Meanwhile, news reports indicated Congress will next vote on the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan for climate, economic and social policy funding includes another $3 billion in competitive grants that zero-emissions school buses would be eligible for.
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