Senator Murray to Introduce Bill to Electrify School Buses, Protect Children’s Health

(Washington, D.C.)  Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate education and health committee, joined Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV) and Representatives Jahana Hayes (D-CT, 5th) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA, 29th) to announce they will be introducing the Clean School Bus Act. This legislation would provide $1 billion for grants to help school districts across the country replace traditional school buses with electric ones. By reducing students’ exposure to diesel exhaust, the bill would significantly reduce students’ risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and provide long-term savings to school districts. The bill was introduced in the Senate last Congress by former Senator and current Vice President Kamala Harris.

As we work to ensure a brighter future for children in Washington state and across the country, it’s crucial for both the health of our students and the future of our planet that we invest in zero-emission transportation,” Senator Murray said.“This legislation is good for the health of our students, our economy and our planet—and I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues and Vice President Harris to pass this bill and help school districts across the country follow the lead of Washington state.”

Every day, more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers breathe polluted air during their commute to school, which has a negative impact on students’ health and academic performance, particularly for students with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Further, transportation accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. With approximately 500,000 school buses on the road traveling over 3 billion miles per year, this bill will assist school districts in transitioning to cleaner buses that can accelerate the electrification of the nation’s school bus fleet. The legislation comes as school districts across Washington state are committing to electrifying their school bus fleets, including Seattle Public Schools.

The Clean School Bus Act will:

  • Authorize $1 billion over five years at the Department of Energy to fund a Clean School Bus Grant Program to spur increased adoption of this clean technology.
  • Provide grants of up to $2 million to replace diesel school buses with electric school buses, invest in charging infrastructure, and support workforce development. Right now, EV school buses cost significantly more than diesel, so it is cost-prohibitive to purchase EV buses.
  • Give priority to applications that serve students from families with low-incomes, replace the most polluting buses, and leverage the funding to further decrease pollution and emissions, including through partnerships with local utilities.

“Every child in our country deserves a pollution-free start and end to their school day,” Laura Watson, director of Washington State’s Department of Ecology said. “This bill is an opportunity to improve the health of our communities, and give our children and our environment a brighter future.”

“Tacoma Power appreciates Senator Murray’s innovative leadership in developing significant new federal resources to electrify school buses across Washington State and our nation,” said Chris Robinson, General Manager & Superintendent for Tacoma Power. “Fueling next generation electric school buses with Tacoma Power’s carbon-free hydropower will reduce emissions and contribute to our clean energy future.”

“As a mom and indigenous woman in Washington state, I am grateful that Senator Murray has taken a leadership role in helping to electrify our transportation sector. This is exactly the kind of action we need to help solve the climate crisis. The Clean School Bus Act comes the same week as the Washington State legislature voted to electrify all cars and light trucks by 2030. I am so happy to see this momentum at different levels of government to slash climate pollution from the transportation sector. I am grateful that Washington’s leaders from Olympia to Capitol Hill are spearheading efforts to move us away from polluting vehicles that are reliant on fossil fuels and endanger the health of our families,” Rachel Heaton, a member of the Muckleshoot Tribe of Auburn, Washington, and a descendant of the Duwamish Tribe, and Washington State member of Moms Clean Air Force said.

“Millions of children rely on diesel-powered school buses to go to and from school each day. While riding those buses, they may be breathing in dirty diesel pollution that is carcinogenic, triggers asthma attacks, and interferes with their ability to learn. To protect our children’s health, we need to phase out diesel powered school buses, and transition to 100% electric powered buses. Electric buses run on battery power and have no tailpipe emissions. That means no harmful diesel emissions, and no dangerous climate pollution either. The Clean School Bus Act will help move our kids onto electric school buses, while reducing climate pollution. As our families reel from the impacts of the Coronavirus, we must take every measure to insure the safety of children both inside and outside the classroom. Moms Clean Air Force applauds the leadership of Senators Murray and Cortez Masto, and Representative Hayes, to help protect our children from dirty diesel pollution,” Trisha Dello Iacono, Legislative Manager of Moms Clean Air Force said.

“We thank Senators Cortez Masto and Murray and Representatives Hayes and Cárdenas for leading this effort to help school districts upgrade from diesel-fueled school buses to zero-emission school buses. This is a strong down payment on our way to reaching full electrification of the nation’s school bus fleet. We know that we need so much more to ensure that 25 million children, especially in communities of color and low-income communities, are breathing healthy air on their way to school and in their neighborhoods. We look forward to working together to boost funding to accelerate the transition of the U.S. polluting school bus fleet to zero emissions,” Johana Vicente, National Director of Chispa, a community organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters, said.

“This legislation is good for our health and good for our economy. Our children deserve pollution-free rides to school, and electrifying our school buses will help ensure they have clean air to breathe. We can also build these school buses here in America, creating jobs and sparking innovation,” Luke Tonachel, Clean Vehicles Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council said.

The Clean School Bus Act was supported in 2019 by American Lung Association, California Association of School Transportation Officials, Chispa – Clean Buses for Healthy Niños, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Green for All, Hispanic Access Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, National Resources Defense Council, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, South Coast Air Quality Management District, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group. This year it is also supported by the Environmental Defense Fund and the BlueGreen Alliance.