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More PA Districts Look to Upgrade School Buses with EPA Grants

School districts in Pennsylvania and across the country can apply for grant funding to get new buses that run on cleaner fuel sources. There's $400 million available through the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus Program.

Vanessa Lynch, Pennsylvania state coordinator for Moms Clean Air Force, said close to 1.3 million students are transported by more than 21,000 school buses throughout Pennsylvania. Eleven school districts in the state have already gotten more than 100 electric buses.

Lynch said the districts are focusing on what she called the "most health-protective and climate-friendly option."

"We know that tailpipe pollution has a big impact on kids, from triggering asthma attacks and interfering with lung development to contributing to cancer," she said. "The wonderful thing about an electric school bus is, there's no tailpipe."

Lynch said rural districts and those with low-income students will have priority so they can start the process of providing a cleaner ride to school for kids. The application deadline for the next Clean School Bus Program grants is Aug. 22.

Mandy Warner, director of the Environmental Defense Fund in Pennsylvania, said all 50 states applied for buses the first year of the program. The EPA received more than 2,000 applications for more than 12,000 buses, and was able to fill enough requests for 2,500 buses.

Warner said having more electric vehicles on the road has health and climate benefits - and they're about 60% cheaper to operate than traditional school buses.

"There is huge demand for building out cleaner buses, and really exciting opportunities to get more EV buses on the road," he said. "One of the things that I want to emphasize is that there's also a lot of cost-effective measures from this program. So, there are savings from switching from propane buses, for example, to EV buses."

Warner said fluctuating gas prices affect school districts just as they do other drivers, putting school budgets at risk in the volatile fossil-fuel market.