California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will save the state’s cash-strapped school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars while keeping them in compliance with Clean Air laws.
Assembly Bill 470, authored by Assemblymember Linda Halderman, gives school districts the flexibility to use existing funds to retrofit aging school buses instead of having to purchase brand-new ones.
The law will take effect onJan. 1, 2012 and will use the last $2 of the vehicle registration fee to retrofit school buses to meet emission standards. Though this money was already being collected, Halderman’s bill makes the funds available to local school districts.
“Before this legislation was signed, school districts who wanted to improve their aging school bus fleets for emissions control were forced to buy new school buses at a cost of about $140,000,” Halderman told CBS-47 News. “Instead, this new bill allows them to do retrofitting, which is important for a lot of local school districts. We can’t bankrupt them in order to save our air quality.”
Retrofitting will save the districts about $100,000 per bus, she continued, which represents significant cost savings for California school districts.
“Some school districts have only a few buses left to do, but others, like the more rural districts, have a lot to do,” said Dr. Halderman. “The exciting part about this legislation is it had unanimous support from both the Senate and the Assembly — bipartisan [support].”
Health organizations such as the American Lung Association in California applauded the passage of this “important” measure.
“This is a common-sense bill to allow local air pollution control districts to fund retrofits of school bus exhaust equipment and extend the life of natural gas–fueled school buses,” said Paul Knepprath, VP for Advocacy and Health Initiatives for the ALA in California.
Another School Bus-Related Bill
On Monday, Gov. Brown received another bill relating to cleaner-running school buses by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal. Assembly Bill 462 also would give school districts new flexibility with existing Clean Air funds to replace the pressurized tanks on natural-gas-powered school buses. It would keep school districts from having to sideline buses because they could not afford to replace the fuel tanks.
“Every dollar has to count, that’s really the point here,” said Lowenthal. “We want to keep clean buses on the road. Our children and our communities deserve no less.”
California Air Resources Board Updates Retrofit Eligibility
In separate but related news, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) this week published guidance that the eligibility of fleets for retrofit funding under the Lower-Emission School Bus Program is now based on the model year of the engine not the model year of the bus, as was previously the case.
Janet Page, an air pollution specialist in CARB’s Planning and Regulatory Development Section said the update means that all diesel school buses with 1987 or newer model-year engines now qualify for funding.
Page also expressed the concern of CARB with respect to installing retrofits on chassis that are 30 years of age or older.
“[CARB] recognizes it is common practice for school districts to repower 1987 and older [model-year] buses with newer engines, as this may be the most cost-effective option of extending the service of an older bus,” wrote Page in a letter dated Aug. 16. “However, to help ensure the bus remains in service through the required five year project life additional requirements are included.”
These requirements are:
- Older bus chassis may have structural integrity issues. Documentation is required confirming that the chassis is in good working order and will last through the five year project life. This includes a dealer or district engineer inspection with a subsequent report to the air district substantiating that the chassis is structurally sound, and will remain in service for five additional years.
- Language must be included in the contract that stipulates that the chassis must operate for the length of the project life or a pro-rated amount will be returned to the air district.
- Air districts may seek a case-by-case determination in lieu of the preceding and must provide documentation that is sufficient to demonstrate that the chassis will last through the project life.
- All other eligibility requirements remain including CHP safety certification, cost caps, five year project life, and ARB-verified level 3 diesel emission control device executive order.