Date: May 17, 2022
To: Michael S. Regan
Administrator Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Chairman Thomas R. Carper, Senate Environment & Public Works Committee
Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., House Energy & Commerce Committee
Chairman Bobby Rush, Energy Subcommittee, House Energy & Commerce Committee
Karl Simon, Director, Transportation and Climate Division, Office of Transportation & Air Quality, Environmental Protection Agency
Zealan Hoover, Environmental Protection Agency
Austin Brown, Senior Director for Transportation Emissions, White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy
Ike Irby, Office of the Vice President
Re: Clean School Bus Program Design
Dear Administrator Regan,
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a tremendous opportunity to transform our nation’s school bus fleet from polluting diesel to clean electric power through the new Clean School Bus Program (CSBP) created in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Electric school buses have zero tailpipe emissions, providing cleaner air for students, drivers and communities and protecting our climate. We appreciate your efforts to advance these pollution free buses. However, we are concerned that the design of the program will exclude some school districts from applying to the program, including districts that qualify for EPA’s priority list.
Our concern arises from EPA’s decision to absorb elements of EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) program into the Clean School Bus Program, including requirements for bus ownership and scrappage to apply for the first round lottery of the program. These requirements would exclude schools who are in a position to shift their transportation services from a contractor to school-district-owned electric buses. The scrappage requirement, though laudable in its goal to protect other communities from dirtier diesel buses, only works for school districts that already own their buses and are applying to electrify their fleet or who are contracting out transportation services and whose contractor is interested in working with the district to electrify their buses.
We are aware of school districts in Illinois, including Chicago Public Schools and others in the Chicago region who are in a position to apply to the Clean School Bus Program and seek to own the new clean electric buses the program will enable them to acquire. These are districts that have contracted for service and for a variety of reasons are ready to change their model for student transportation. Furthermore, these school districts serve predominantly low-income Black and Brown students and will likely be included on EPA’s priority list for this program. Every day, millions of children - especially low-income Black and Brown children - breathe in fumes from diesel-powered school buses. This pollution increases the risk of health conditions like asthma and bronchitis, the effects of which are disproportionately borne by low-income Black and Brown communities. Reducing diesel emissions has also been shown to increase academic performance, a critical benefit for low-income Black and Brown communities already challenged with many barriers to academic achievement. We cannot leave these school districts and these students behind. We are concerned that this situation will arise for other school districts across the country once they become aware of this requirement to scrap (or otherwise dispose of) buses, despite guidance from EPA in its 4/27/22 webinar that every school district would be eligible to apply for this historic funding.
EPA should address this issue before guidance for the first round of applications is issued. EPA can create necessary flexibility in the program for historically underserved low-income minority districts intent on changing their ownership model and in so doing replacing their students' rides from diesel to clean electric. EPA can accomplish this goal by waiving the scrappage or related requirements for these school districts. Indeed EPA has already indicated it will waive the scrappage requirement in a different situation: those owning newer buses are offered the option to otherwise dispose of the buses by selling or donating them (slide 23, April 27 webinar).
School districts that are ready to transition to electric and apply to the CSBP, especially schools that otherwise meet the criteria for prioritization, should not be blocked from the program in a way that thwarts congressional intent and reduces applications for electric buses to this first round of the program.
We appreciate your attention to this issue and are available to discuss our concerns and suggested solutions with you.
Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America - Michigan Chapter
Clean Energy Works
Climate Reality Chicago Metro
Ecology Center (Michigan)
Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Law & Policy Center
Environment New Jersey
League of Conservation Voters
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation
Metro East Green Alliance
MI Air MI Health
Mi Familia Vota
Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action
Moms Clean Air Force
Mothers Out Front
NC League of Conservation Voters
Ohio Sustainable Business Council
Port Arthur Community Action Network
Respiratory Health Association
The Alaska Center
Warehouse Workers for Justice
Urban Efficiency Group, LLC
Urban Efficiency, LLC