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Padilla and Butler announce over $91 million for zero-emission school buses in California

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler (both D-Calif.) announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded over $91.2 million to 47 California schools and school districts to replace 380 existing school buses—most of which run on diesel—with zero-emission models. These fiscal year 2023 funds will be distributed from EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and following the example of Law for a clean commute for children which Padilla presented in 2021.

“To ensure California’s schoolchildren have a successful day at school, the first step is to make their commute cleaner,” said Senator Padilla. “The Clean School Bus Program is a critical down payment on the transition to zero-emission buses, which is especially important for low-income communities struggling with some of the worst air quality in our country. I am proud to have spearheaded these investments that are already transforming our bus fleets and improving the health and education of our children.”

“I welcome the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding for zero-emission school buses that will reduce pollution and contribute to a healthier environment for our children to learn and grow up in,” said Senator Butler. “These federal funds will be targeted to the school districts that need them most, ensuring that all Californians have equitable access to cleaner transportation.”

“EPA is proud to take another step to promote the adoption of electric school buses in California and help create a future where our children can breathe cleaner air,” said Martha Guzman, EPA's Pacific Southwest regional administrator. “I have seen the benefits of these electric buses firsthand. The absence of harmful diesel emissions benefits students, school staff and the surrounding communities. Thanks to these investments, more electric school buses will be on the road in school districts across California.”

School districts receiving grants from the Clean School Bus Rebate Program include:

  • Compton Unit: 8.6 million dollars for 25 buses
  • Fresno Unified: 6.6 million dollars for 25 buses
  • Santa Barbara Unified: 5.1 million dollars for 25 buses
  • Orange Unified: 4.5 million dollars for 25 buses
  • Montebello Unified: 4.2 million dollars for 25 buses
  • Stockton Unified: 6.9 million dollars for 20 buses
  • Whittier Union High: 3.4 million dollars for 17 buses
  • Elk Grove unites: 5.5 million dollars for 16 buses
  • Paradise Elementary School: 2.3 million dollars for 15 buses

The full list of FY23 Clean School Bus Rebate Program awards for California can be found here.

These awards mark the third round of funding for the five-year, $5 billion Clean School Bus Program. EPA selected the winners of the Clean School Bus Program's fiscal year 2023 rebate competition through a lottery system, awarding nearly $900 million for over 3,400 buses to 531 applicants across the country. Across the country, school districts identified by EPA as priority areas for low-income, rural, and/or tribal students account for 45 percent of the projects selected.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 400,000 public school buses travel more than 4.3 billion miles each year to transport 23.5 million children to and from school.

Air pollution from diesel engines is linked to asthma and other diseases that harm students' health and cause them to stay away from school, particularly in communities of color and tribal communities. Phasing out these diesel engines will provide cleaner air for students, bus drivers, and school staff who work near bus loading areas, as well as neighboring communities. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from these bus replacements will also help address the transportation sector's outsized role in exacerbating the climate crisis. The program will also save school districts money as they upgrade their school bus fleets, replacing older, highly polluting buses with new, clean school buses, freeing up needed resources for schools.

Senator Padilla has advocated for the transition from diesel-powered buses to zero-emission vehicles, including through his bicameral legislature. Law for a clean commute for children. Padilla and the bill's co-authors, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.-29) and Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.-05), recently penned a letter urging the Congressional Appropriations Committees to allocate at least $300 million in additional funding for zero-emission school buses through the Clean School Bus Program for fiscal year 2025. Padilla announced $88 million for California through the program earlier this year and welcomed over $68 million for California school buses in fiscal year 2022.

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Anna Harden

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