Los Angeles Unified School District is eyeing the School Bus Replacement Program offered by the California Energy Commission (CEC) to begin adding electric school buses to its fleet.
The CEC program established by Senate Bill 110 gives schools “options to embrace next generation zero-emission vehicles and improve children’s health by limiting their exposure to transportation-related air pollution.” Up to $75 million is available to replace the oldest diesel school buses with electric models, or with CNG if electric will feasibly not work with a district’s current operations.
Phase one of the project closes Sept. 20, 2018. California districts have until then to apply for their share of $25 million. (See the end of this article for an instructional CEC video on how to apply.)
Ellen T. Morgan, communications officer for LAUSD, said that the district looks forward to pursuing the opportunity in the hope of obtaining additional funds “to improve our fleet.” She added that LAUSD already boasts the largest alternatively fueled school bus fleet in operation in the U.S., with 595 CNG buses, 100 ultra-low emission buses and 268 propane buses. In all, the district operates about 1,300 school buses.
“Government incentive funding is an obvious solution that can help LAUSD improve the public health of students and offset its financial woes,” agreed Danielle Kulton, spokeswoman for the LA County Electric Bus Coalition. The coalition is made up of the Los Angeles Sierra Club, nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice, the South Bay Los Angeles 350 Climate Action Group, research and advocacy center Jobs to Move America, public interest organization Food & Water Watch, and environmental advocacy organization Environment California.
In a letter sent Monday, the coalition encouraged Los Angeles County Board of Education members to “seek as much funding as possible to shift from outdated, polluting diesel and natural gas burning buses to electric buses.” LAUSD still runs about 300 diesel school buses every day, Kelton pointed out, though those buses are cleaner-burning systems that also utilize biodiesel.
“Over 65,000 students in LAUSD suffer from asthma and respiratory health issues, resulting in an estimated 195,000 days of school missed a year, costing the district $5.85 million in public funds annually,” the coalition explained. “Making the shift towards clean electric school buses will help improve student health and performances.”
The coalition added that more money for electric buses would create more manufacturing jobs in California.
“Now is the time for the District to seize the opportunity for available resources to ensure that we can make electric school buses a reality without diverting resources away from classroom instruction,” they urged.
The coalition also referenced the $2.925 billion Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund, which makes about $423 million available to California for zero-emissions commercial vehicles including electric school buses. Those funds are expected to be made available through the California Air Resources Board as early as this fall.