Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that school districts across Maine have been awarded funding from the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to purchase 34 new zero-emission electric school buses. This news comes just a year after Maine debuted its first electric school bus at Mount Desert Island High School, a bus that saved the school 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel within the first 6 months of operating. Not only will these buses carry lower maintenance costs, they’ll emit zero pollution, creating a much heathier environment for school children riding the bus.
The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program is a national program that will fund the replacement of more than 2,500 school buses around the country with $5 billion in federal funding distributed to states over the next 5 years. This is great news for local towns and school districts that will benefit from cost savings and cleaner air, and Maine should be particularly proud following this first round of funding.
Maine received the most buses of any New England state and the fourth most of any state in the country, despite a relatively small population. That speaks to Maine’s values of environmental protection and smart investments, and the proactive approach our state and municipalities took when applying for this funding. Sixty municipalities applied for at least one clean bus, emphasizing the high level of interest for these buses around the state. These federal grants are proof that politicians from both parties can work together to speed our transition to a clean energy economy. The funding came from a bipartisan law passed last year that was supported by Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden.
It is also a great example of how reducing our reliance on oil and gas not only cuts costs, but also helps improve our health. According to a study conducted by Environment and Human Health Inc., diesel fumes are carcinogenic and cause higher rates of asthma among school-aged children. The same study found that diesel-based particulate matter is found at a rate 10 times higher inside diesel-powered buses than outside the vehicle. Transitioning to zero-emission buses will ensure that our school children are not exposed to these dangerous airborne pollutants.
We’re all seeing the high cost of fossil fuels, especially at the gas pump, so giving towns, businesses, and individuals the opportunities to move to electric vehicles is one tangible way we can stop sending millions of dollars out of state to fossil fuel companies.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine wants to thank everyone who worked on these grant applications, from school administrators to officials at Maine’s Department of Transportation and Department of Education who provided guidance, and our Congressional delegation for making this opportunity possible. Their hard work is a great testament to the energy, creativity, and dedication Mainers bring every day to our collective work in implementing our state’s Climate Action Plan.
The electric school buses coming to Maine are a promising step forward for our future and we can’t wait to see them on the road!
–Josh Caldwell, NRCM Climate & Clean Energy Outreach Coordinator