Clean-powered buses on the way for Michigan schools, fueled by grants
- The Environmental Protection Agency awarded three Michigan school districts grants to buy clean-powered school buses
- The money came from a $5 billion federal program created to replace school buses with clean buses nationwide
- The state also budgeted $125 million to help districts transition to clean-energy buses
Michigan school districts are making the transition to clean-powered school buses in line with the state’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral.
Detroit, Lansing and Pontiac public schools will each receive a $5,925,000 grant to buy 15 clean-powered school buses, from President Biden’s Clean School Bus Program, aimed at replacing school buses with ones that are zero and low emission.
“Being able to provide a better transportation experience to our students is paramount in our mission,” said Kelley Williams, superintendent for Pontiac school district. “By creating zero emissions, reducing the noise level of the bus, and providing a comfortable ride, our students should arrive at school happier and healthier, ready to engage in the learning environment.”
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The $5 billion Environmental Protection Agency program is in its second year. In 2023, over $875 million was awarded to 372 school districts including 25 in Michigan, to replace 2,366 school buses.
The program will provide the money over five years to fund clean school buses–powered by compressed natural gas and propane– and electric school buses.
“These federal dollars will purchase new, electric school buses for these school districts, providing a safer and cleaner ride to school for students,” said Zachary Kolodin, the state’s chief infrastructure officer, in a statement. “These buses will save schools money on maintenance costs while meaningfully advancing the state’s climate goals.”
An additional five school districts also received funding through a third-party to purchase buses including 10 in Flint, five in Redford Union, one in Detroit and two each in Manson, Brimley and West Shore Educational Service District in Ludington.
In 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency invested $54 million toward 138 new electric school buses and infrastructure, including charging stations, for 25 Michigan school districts.
“EGLE is excited about this funding and about this transition,” said Jeff Johnston, public information officer for the department. “There are benefits for climate action that certainly help move us toward goals of MI Healthy Climate Plan but there's also a benefit to public health in getting diesel exhaust out of the air.”
Nearly 15 percent of children in Detroit have asthma compared to roughly 8 percent of Michigan children, according to more recent data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The transition to clean school buses has been ongoing since 2019, when the state department of Environmental, Great Lakes and Energy’s Fuel Transformation Program awarded a $4.2 million grant to seven school districts across the state to purchase 17 electric school buses and charging stations. These were the first electric school buses in the state.
“If you've spent any time outside of a school at pick up or drop off time, you know what it smells like, diesel exhaust,” Johnson said. “That's not good for students, that's not good for school staff, that's not good for the neighborhoods.”
Governor Whitmer also included $125 million in the state budget to help school systems transition to clean-energy buses.
The funds can be used to cover up to 90 percent of the cost for an electric school bus in districts considered high-priority, or schools that have a significant number of students living below poverty, for example. Up to 70 percent of costs can be covered for an all electric school bus for non-preferred districts.
The state hopes to open applications for the money this spring, as some districts have already inquired about how to apply for the money.
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