HomeGeorgia NewsNine Georgia school districts to benefit from $900 million federal grant for...

Nine Georgia school districts to benefit from $900 million federal grant for clean buses

Georgia – Nine school districts in Georgia will soon receive a significant amount of federal money aimed at replacing old diesel and gas-powered school buses with environmentally friendlier ones. This funding comes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which on Wednesday announced that $900 million will be allocated towards “clean” buses—primarily electric, with some propane-powered—under a five-year, $5 billion initiative established by the bipartisan infrastructure law.

“It’s about the bigger picture,” said EPA administrator Michael Regan in a call with reporters. “We are improving air quality for our children, reducing greenhouse gas pollution and expanding our nation’s leadership in developing the clean vehicles of the future.”

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Regan noted that with this new funding, the program has now allocated around $3 billion to help communities across the country purchase about 8,500 electric and alternative fuel buses. In Georgia, the districts benefiting from this round of grants are mostly located in rural areas. Specific counties like Atkinson, Baldwin, Brooks, Jeff Davis, Madison, and Oglethorpe are also recipients.

These new buses will replace older models powered by diesel or gasoline, both of which come from crude oil and release harmful greenhouse gases when burned. Historically, diesel has been the preferred choice for larger vehicles like buses and trucks because it contains more energy per gallon than gasoline. However, diesel’s combustion produces dirtier emissions, posing a greater health risk, especially to children with developing lungs. Diesel exhaust has even been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The largest grant in this round for Georgia goes to the Clayton County School District, which will receive $8.7 million. This adds to the $9.8 million they got in the first round of funding. Additionally, the school board has contributed $2.9 million for charging infrastructure, with Georgia Power providing further support, according to the district’s transportation chief, Denise Hall.

Georgia schools receive nearly $60 million from feds for electric buses

Denise Hall, the transportation chief for a district in Georgia, mentioned that before they received funding from the EPA, the district operated 467 buses. While she didn’t specify the number of new electric buses already purchased, she highlighted that 28 fast chargers have been installed, and electric buses are expected to be operational for the next school year. Hall mentioned that the district aims to achieve a “balance” rather than fully electrify its fleet.

“This process is new to all and together we are training staff, identifying strengths and weaknesses, in addition to staying focused on providing the best transportation for our scholars,” Hall said in a statement provided by a district spokeswoman.

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In another part of Georgia, Baldwin County Schools, which includes Milledgeville, is set to receive $2 million for their first electric buses and charging stations. Their current fleet consists of 63 buses, with most running on diesel and two on gasoline. The district plans to purchase six electric buses.

“My goal for the district is to hopefully obtain a mixed fleet of buses, while envisioning using electric buses on as many routes as feasible within the current operating range,” Little said in an email. “[T]his would be the first step in the direction of operating a cleaner bus fleet.”

This federal initiative towards bus electrification is also poised to benefit Blue Bird, a prominent Georgia-based manufacturer of school buses, including electric and propane models. Blue Bird has reported that it sold nearly two-thirds of all alternative powered school buses from fiscal year 2014 through 2023. To address the growing demand for electric buses, the company recently established an Electric Vehicle Build-up Center in Fort Valley.

Nine Georgia school districts received funds in the latest round of federal grants to purchase electric and alternative-fueled buses

  • Atkinson County: $210,000
  • Baldwin County: $2 million
  • Brooks County: $315,000
  • Clayton County: $8.7 million
  • Douglas County: $5 million
  • Hall County: $625,000
  • Jeff Davis County: $1.7 million
  • Madison County: $175,000
  • Oglethorpe County: $100,000
  • A note of disclosure
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