Testimony: Electric School Buses

Our testimony on HB1255 to support Electric School buses for Maryland.

Our testimony on HB1255 to support Electric School buses for Maryland.

Maryland PIRG and Environment Maryland support House Bill 1255, School Bus Purchasing – Zero-Emission Vehicle – Requirement.

HB 1255 would require that all school buses purchased by a county boards of education be zero-emission vehicles, beginning in October 2022, and all buses purchased by school bus contractors be zero-emission vehicles beginning in October 2025.

School buses play a key role in Maryland’s transportation system. In Maryland, nearly 625,000 public school students are transported on school buses every day. They either ride on one of the 3,700 buses owned by county boards of education or one of the 3,400 buses owned and operated by school bus contractors. Parents across the state rely on these buses to get their kids to and from school safely.

Yet, the vast majority of these buses remain dirty – burning fossil fuels like diesel that put the health of our children and communities at risk and contribute to global warming. 

Numerous studies have shown that inhaling diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions like asthma. Diesel exhaust is internationally recognized as a cancer-causing agent and classified as a likely carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In a study of 61 million people in 2015, researchers found that exposure to diesel soot and ground-level ozone created by diesel exhaust was linked to higher rates of mortality.

Children are most vulnerable to the negative health effects caused by air pollution; their respiratory systems are still developing and they inhale more air per pound of body weight than adults. Diesel pollution is especially dangerous – for children, there is no established safe level of exposure to diesel exhaust pollutants.

But in MarylandPIRG’s report, Electric School Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air, we found that dirty school buses expose children to high levels of diesel exhaust pollutants, whether they are on the bus, near an idling bus at school, or even just in neighborhoods where dirty school buses travel.

The good news is that Maryland can clean up its school buses by making them electric. All-electric buses are here, and they’re cleaner, healthier and often cheaper for school districts and bus contractors to run in the long-term. With no tailpipe emissions, electric school buses can drastically reduce the pollution Maryland’s children are exposed to. 

Dramatic declines in battery costs and improvements in performance, including expanded driving range, have made electric buses a viable alternative to diesel-powered and other fossil fuel buses. And each electric school bus can save districts nearly $2,000 a year in fuel and $4,400 a year in reduced maintenance costs, saving tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a bus. So while electric school buses are essential to protect the health of our children, they are also smart investments for school districts and school bus contractors. 

Kids in Maryland deserve a safe ride to school. Thanks to pollution, they’re not getting safe rides on diesel buses. It’s time to switch to all-electric buses. We respectfully request a favorable report on HB 1255: School Bus Purchasing – Zero-Emission Vehicle – Requirement, to require all new school bus purchases be zero-emissions by October 2025

We respectfully request a favorable report on HB1255.

[1] School buses transport over 70 percent of all Maryland public school students and travel over 123,000,000 miles every year. “U.S. State by State Transportation Statistics 2016-17,” School Bus Fleet.

[2] International: World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, “IARC: Diesel Engine Exhaust Carcinogenic” (press release), 12 June 2012f; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “IRIS Assessments: Diesel Engine Exhaust – CASRN NA,” 28 February 2003. 

[3] Quian Di et al., “Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 376:2513-2522, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1702747, 29 June 2017. 

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke,” 12 January 2018. 

[5] C. Li, Q. Nguyen, P. Ryan, G. LeMasters, H. Spitz, M. Lobaugh, S. Glover and S. Grinshpun, 2009, Journal of Environmental Monitoring, “School Bus Pollution And Changes in The Air Quality at Schools: A Case Study.”   

[6]  “Electric School Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air,” Maryland PIRG, May 2018. 

[7] Clinton Global Initiative V2G EV School Bus Working Group, ZEV School Buses – They’re Here and Possibly Free (presentation), 22 April 2016. 


Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Emily has helped win small donor public financing in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County. She has played a key role in establishing new state laws to to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms, require testing for lead in school drinking water and restrict the use of toxic flame retardant and PFAS chemicals. Emily also serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition and the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working. Emily lives in Baltimore City with her husband, kids, and dog.