Michigan school officials praise infrastructure law for funding new electric buses

Photo by Megan Lee on Unsplash

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Jan. 8 that it had selected three Michigan school districts to receive funding that will be used to purchase 45 clean and electric-powered school buses. The school systems in Detroit, Lansing and Pontiac will each receive funding for 15 buses.

Funding for the project comes from the agency’s Clean School Bus Program, which was created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in 2021.

Local school officials praised the agency’s announcement.

“The Lansing School District is thrilled and grateful to receive nearly $6 million from the United States Environmental Protection Agency 2023 Clean School Bus Grant Program,” Ben Shuldiner, superintendent of the Lansing School District, said in a statement quoted in the EPA’s news release.

“Providing for a cleaner, healthier, and quieter transportation experience for our students, staff, and community is a priority for the district,” said Kelley Williams, superintendent of Pontiac’s school district.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Jan. 10 that an additional 21 buses would be purchased for Michigan via First Student Inc. and Highland CSB 1, two organizations that received grants to buy buses in multiple states. In Michigan, the grantees will purchase additional buses in the Detroit region, Flint, Ludington, Mason County, and Brimley.

According to the EPA, since the federal program launched in 2022, more than 640 school districts across the country have been awarded grants and rebates to replace over 5,100 school buses. The infrastructure law created a fund of over $5 billion to replace buses over the five-year period between 2022 and 2026.

“Thanks to President Biden’s historic investments in America, thousands more school buses will hit the road in school districts across the country, saving school districts money and improving air quality at the same time,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in the EPA’s statement.

Most existing school buses use diesel fuel; they emit exhaust fumes that contain carcinogens linked by the World Health Organization to an increased risk of lung cancer in those exposed to them.

The American Lung Association has called on Congress to fund a transition to electric school buses, citing the effects of diesel exhaust exposure.

“There is clear scientific evidence demonstrating the effects of diesel exhaust exposure on the human body, including asthma attacks, premature deaths, and cancer. Children are especially vulnerable to poor air quality, as their brains and respiratory systems are still developing,” the Association notes on its website.

All of the Republicans in the Michigan congressional delegation voted against the law supporting a transition to cleaner buses.

Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI) in December 2022 called the law part of a “reckless two-year spending spree” by the Biden administration.

The state’s Democratic representatives voted for passage of the law, along with Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters.“This bill is a win for Michigan,” Stabenow said in an August 2021 release.