Date: January 11, 2021
About: Transitioning from diesel to electric school buses with Department of Environmental Protection grant funding
To: Florida school superintendents in Broward, Hillsborough, Manatee, Miami Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Sarasota, Seminole, and Orange Counties
Dear Superintendent Carvalho,
In December, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) released its latest round of grant funding for the acquisition of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure under the Volkswagen Mitigation Plan. FDEP will allocate $57 million towards the acquisition of electric bus and
charging infrastructure, with a cost match requirement of only 25%. FDEP has eliminated the cap on the number of buses that districts may apply for, meaning districts can apply for as many buses as they see fit. It is important to note that the application process does not impose any obligation on school districts, and administrators may purchase a smaller number than originally applied for. The application period will close January 19, 2021.
This grant is open for participation by the school districts of Florida’s 23 most populous and air-quality burdened counties. We write to ask that you advocate for those funds to go towards zero emissions units to protect Florida’s children.
In 2015, it was revealed that Volkswagen secretly and deliberately installed a ‘defeat device’ in nearly 600,000 of their diesel vehicles sold in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued the company over this flagrant violation, resulting in a $14.7 billion settlement. Florida received $166.4 million from the Volkswagen Settlement to promote the use of zero emissions vehicles and infrastructure.
Diesel-engine bus fumes contain high levels of particulate matter, aerosolized toxins, nitrogen oxides, and greenhouse gases. With so many children exposed to pollution, it is no coincidence that 1 in every 10 children in Florida suffers from asthma. Low income families and communities of color are hit harder as they are more likely to suffer from higher rates of asthma, air pollution, and other adverse environmental health impacts. With your help we can provide a clean and fiscally responsible way to secure a clean future for our children, regardless of their socio-economic status and race. Electric school buses are the best technological solution to address the health impacts of diesel buses.
We urge you to apply for funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to purchase clean electric school buses and the necessary charging infrastructure.
Our coalition is not alone in calling for zero emissions school buses. During the public comment period in April 2018, thousands of Floridans submitted comments urging FDEP to prioritize electric vehicles. Electric school buses were listed as a top three priority in responses to their FDEP’s public survey.
Superintendent Carvalho, this is our opportunity to put the health of our children first. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss your plan to protect the health of your students and bring more clean, electric school buses to your district.
Chispa Florida/Florida Conservation Voters Education Fund
Environmental Defense Fund
Florida Clinicians for Climate Action
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Moms Clean Air Force
ReThink Energy Florida
Sierra Club of Florida
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy