Luján Introduces Legislation to Improve Access to Clean Buses for Rural Communities
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced legislation to expand rural communities’ access to clean school buses. Studies have shown that pollution levels in the cabin of existing diesel school buses are 12 times higher than outdoors. This legislation will protect rural students from these harmful diesel emissions by supporting the installation of the infrastructure needed to support rural schools’ clean bus fleets.
Specifically, this bill will codify the eligibility of clean school bus infrastructure, such as propane tanks and electric chargers, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Facilities Direct Loans and Grant Program. This codification will increase rural schools’ confidence when applying for the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program and other similar initiatives, and ensure that USDA maintains clean school bus infrastructure as a program priority year-over-year.
“Aside from the classroom, students in rural communities spend a large amount of their time commuting to and from school on buses that release harmful emissions. In fact, studies have shown that pollution levels in common school buses can be much worse than it is outside,” said Luján. “To address this, the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program has provided clean school buses to communities in New Mexico and across the country, but more investments are needed to continue protecting students. I’m proud to introduce this legislation that will help expand rural communities’ access to clean buses by supporting the development and installation of much-needed clean bus infrastructure.”
“Lake Arthur Municipal Schools fully supports the Community Facilities Program in an effort to complement the EPA program. As rural school districts transition into clean energy buses, it is imperative that the funding available is enough to cover both the buses and the infrastructure. Thank you, Senator Luján, for championing clean energy in our schools,” said Superintendent Elisa Begueria, Lake Arthur Municipal Schools.
“We applaud this effort, led by Senator Luján, to respond to the demand for clean school buses by expanding access to funds for fueling infrastructure in rural areas,” said Sue Gander, Director of World Resources Institute’s Electric School Bus Initiative. “Swapping out the nation’s fleet of harmful, diesel school buses for clean, electric technology is a critical investment in the health and well-being of students, drivers and communities. For many districts eager to realize these benefits, securing charging infrastructure is a key piece for moving forward. Amending the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act is a budget-neutral approach that will enable investments in charging infrastructure to support rural school bus electrification across the country, allowing students and families to be part of this technology transformation.”
“All children deserve to travel to and from school safely. Unfortunately, millions of kids are still riding diesel school buses, putting their health at risk. Demand for clean, zero-emission school buses is increasing, thanks in part to federal investments, and ensuring that rural communities can access funding for the infrastructure to charge them will help accelerate the transition to healthier transportation options that protect kids’ health,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO for the American Lung Association.
“Expanding access for rural communities to funding for electric school buses is very important for improving the health of students, their parents and neighbors. Residents of rural areas must not be left behind as the U.S. rapidly transitions to cleaner and alternative transportation fuels,” said Antoine M. Thompson, Executive Director of the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition.
Background: Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program helped develop and deliver clean school buses that emit far fewer harmful emissions than traditional buses. With over 2,000 applications from schools across the country for over 12,000 buses, schools have shown strong interest in the cost saving, health, and safety benefits of adopting clean school buses. However, the Program provides limited funding for electric charging infrastructure, and no funding for compressed natural gas (CNG) and propane infrastructure. In order to fully benefit from the Program and other clean school bus funding opportunities, rural schools need more support to build infrastructure for clean bus fleets. In addition to the EPA Program, there are several other national and state-level efforts underway to promote the adoption of clean school bus throughout the US, which will also benefit from Senator Luján’s new legislation to expand rural communities’ access to this critical resource.