Our EV Future

EPA Announces $400 Million Grant Program to Give America’s Children a Cleaner Ride to School

EPA will help the nation transition to zero-emission electric school buses with a new competitive grant program

Children getting on a yellow school bus
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Marissa Tucker | Public Domain

On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would award at least $400 million in grants to school districts through the Clean School Bus Program. This round of funding will make more federal dollars available to help replace polluting diesel buses with zero-emission vehicles.

U.S. PIRG and Environment America have long advocated for federal and state funding to support school districts working to transition away from polluting diesel buses. Transitioning America’s fleet to electric school buses, which produce no tailpipe emissions, will benefit public health by improving air quality and help address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Diesel school buses emit a complex mixture of toxic air pollution. Inhaling diesel pollution is bad for human health and particularly bad for children, since their respiratory systems are still developing. Exposure to diesel emissions can cause or worsen respiratory disease, including asthma, and these illnesses often result in absences from school and a loss of learning for students.

The EPA also released a report this week that underscores the need for a transition to zero-emission electric vehicles for the sake of our children’s health. The report found that climate-driven changes in the environment are expected to increase the incidence of asthma in children and the number of emergency department visits related to pediatric asthma as the climate warms. Changes in air quality are expected to increase annual cases of asthma between 4% if warming reaches 2°C and 11% if warming reaches 4°C.

Electric school buses are the safest and healthiest choice for children’s health. By taking advantage of this grant program, school districts can give students a cleaner ride to school today while also addressing the urgent issue of climate change.

Last year, the EPA made $965 million in assistance available through the 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate program. The 2023 Grant Program is separate from the 2022 Rebate Program, and the process for submitting an application will differ. The 2022 Clean School Bus rebate winners submitted a simple application and were chosen through a lottery. Applicants seeking funding through the new 2023 Grant Program will submit a more comprehensive application and be selected based on the merits of their proposal.

Large school districts with communities of concentrated poverty will be prioritized in this round of funding. The EPA will also offer points in the competition to applicants who can offer voluntary funding through public-private partnerships, grants from other entities, or school bonds.

Eligible applicants will have 120 days to submit grant proposals to EPA through Grants.gov. Applicants must be submitted no later than Tuesday, August 22, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. (ET) to be considered for funding.

While the EPA’s $400 million grant program is a significant step in the right direction, more funding is needed to enable more school districts to transition. States can step up by providing additional state-based funding, incentives and technical assistance to support the transition to zero-emission electric school buses. By doing so, more children can breathe clean air on their way to school, resulting in better health outcomes today and in the future.

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Laura Davis
Laura Davis

Former Transform Transportation, Advocate, PIRG

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