Gov. Ralph Northam announced a $20 million electric school bus initiative that will be paid for through a Volkswagen settlement fund.
The funding will be awarded to schools through a competitive grant. It will seek to replace aging buses that currently run on diesel. According to a news release from the governor’s office, replacing 75 diesel buses would yield a lifetime savings of about 670,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide, about 41,000 pounds of particulate matter population and about 36 million pounds of greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions. This will have the same effect as removing 3,500 cars from the road.
“School buses are the safest way to transport students to and from school, but as a pediatric doctor, I know the harmful effects of diesel-powered buses on our children’s health,” Northam said in the news release. “This initiative represents a significant investment in the electrification of our transportation system, in our efforts to address the climate crisis, and in an environment that allows Virginia children to learn, grow and thrive.”
Public schools will be able to apply for these bus replacement grants starting in 2020. They will be eligible to be reimbursed up to $265,00 for purchasing all-electric school buses and up to $20,000 for propane buses made in 1997 or later. The specific funding will be determined by the age of the bus being replaced, the annual mileage of the bus and other criteria. A bus must have a minimum range of 100 miles.
Most of the commonwealth’s school bus fleet runs on diesel. This includes about 500 buses that use engines built before the Environmental Protection Agency’s released its diesel standards.
“Transportation pollution is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Virginia,” Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler said in the news release. “Additionally, diesel exhaust poses significant health risks associated with both pulmonary and cardiovascular issues. Transitioning bus fleets from diesel to electric is a critically important step toward cleaner air, reducing carbon pollution, and helping Virginia meet our environmental goals.”
The settlement money was provided by Volkswagen after the car company was accused of violating the Clean Air Act by cheating on federal emissions tests. The settlement cost the company about $3 billion, which was used to fund an environmental mitigation fund that states, territories and the District of Columbia administered. Virginia received more than $93 million through this settlement.