EPA scored $7million in COVID relief funds to swap diesel school busses with electric

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reportedly doled out $7 million in COVID-19 relief funds to swap out diesel school buses for electric ones in underserved communities and allocated $5.25 million from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) last year for an “environmental justice program.”

The EPA’s 2021 American Rescue Plan (ARP) Electric School Bus Rebates program set aside $7 million of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan to be funneled to schools so each of them could replace up to four diesel buses with electric ones, costing roughly $300,000 each, according to Fox News.

The EPA asserts that ARP funds are intended for “activities that identify and address disproportionate environmental or public health harms and risks in minority populations or low-income populations.”

The rebate program for electric buses is only open to underserved school districts, tribal schools, and private fleets that serve those schools. The approved schools, which were picked using a lottery system, have until October to show proof that they’ve purchased electric buses and have discarded the old ones.

“Diesel engines emit harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and other pollutants,” and “while new buses must meet EPA’s tougher emission standards, many older school buses continue to emit harmful diesel exhaust,” a webinar from last October asserts.

The program wound up funding 23 electric school bus replacements at 11 different schools across the nation and installing the requisite charging infrastructure to support them.

“The science shows a clear link between air pollution and the public health impacts of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19,” the EPA commented in a statement. “Electric school buses provide cleaner air for children, school bus drivers, and the community.

“EPA delivers cleaner air using the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) program which allows school districts to replace diesel engine buses with electric school buses along with other cleaner alternatives,” the statement added. “Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), Congress provided additional funding to EPA’s DERA program to address public health concerns in low-income and minority populations which bear a disproportionate burden of air pollution. The ARP funding provided to EPA’s DERA program is reserved exclusively for school districts in underserved communities, Tribal schools, and private fleets serving those schools while the annual DERA program is open to all eligible states.”

“Imagine a future: The freight trucks that deliver bread and milk to our grocery store shelves and the buses that take children to school and parents to work; imagine all the heavy-duty vehicles that keep our supply lines strong and allow our economy to grow — imagine that they produced zero emissions,” Vice President Kamala Harris declared in March. “Well, you all imagined it. That’s why we’re here today — because we have the ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been, and then to make the possible actually happen.”

(Video Credit: The White House)

According to Democrats, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act was necessary to reopen schools following the pandemic.

“This is one moment in which it’s very clear that public policy is quite literally a matter of life and death,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) said during a February 2021 news conference that was held with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). He noted that the bill would provide “more than $4 billion to the state of Georgia’s K through 12 schools to ensure students, teachers, and staff stay safe and healthy, and to address learning loss.”

The EPA also notably reallocated $5.25 million from ARP last year to fund an environmental justice program that would provide grants for projects that had next to nothing to do with COVID or the pandemic, according to Fox News. One of those projects involved a nonprofit that uses “storytelling” and “tree walks” to “increase awareness and dialogue surrounding inequitable tree canopy cover.”

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