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EPA’s Clean School Bus Program offers financial aid for cleaner buses in American school systems

Through the Clean School Bus Program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing bus fleets with the opportunity to replace older diesel school buses with new buses that are 90 percent cleaner.

In January, bus fleets in Connecticut and Maine received funds to pay for new buses. Ashford, Connecticut, received $20,000 to replace a 2005 diesel bus with a new 2017 bus, according to an EPA press release published on Jan. 18.

Regional School Unit 21 in Kennebunk, Maine, received $160,000 to replace eight old buses while Regional School Unit 24 in Sullivan received $40,000 to replace two old buses with 2017 models, according to another EPA press release on Jan. 18.

The 2016 program allowed for 88 fleets of buses, in 27 states across the nation, to receive more than $7.7 million in rebates to replace a total of 401 buses.

The rebates provided by the EPA cover about 20 to 25 percent of the cost of a new bus, or “just the environmental portion,” said an EPA representative.



New buses not only make for a cleaner environment, but in turn also make for cleaner air due to lower emissions.

Though the EPA has been putting standards in place since 2007 in the effort to make diesel engines cleaner, many older school buses are still in use across the nation and are emitting pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. Under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2008, the EPA funds replacement of old buses that emit harmful pollutants.

Such pollutants emitted by diesel engines are linked to health problems including aggravated asthma, lung damage and other serious health problems.

Due to faster breathing rates and developing respiratory systems, the health risks for children are more severe. Asthma currently affects 6.3 million American school children, making it the most common long-term childhood disease in America, according to an EPA report.

The 2012 Bus Rebate Program is estimated to have reduced 11 tons of particulate matter and 215 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides with only $2 million in EPA funds, according to the DERA Report to Congress published in February 2016.

In 2016, over 500 school bus fleets applied to the program requesting over $44 million in rebates. In order for a fair selection of recipients, those who receive funds are chosen through a random number generator.

Buses built before 1998 are ranked with highest importance for replacement, according to the EPA website. Buses built after 1998 are able to receive funding for retrofitting technology. Retrofitting technologies allow bus owners to add engine exhaust after-treatment technologies in order to create cleaner emissions.

The Clean School Bus Program is reducing harmful emissions not only by changing bus hardware, but also by changing how they are used. The Idle Reduction Campaign is designed to encourage schools to create programs that minimize idling. This program involves adopting policies as well as educating drivers on the negative effects of the practice. Not only does idling waste fuel and money, but it also has extremely harmful health impacts.

Engine manufacturers recommend a warmup time of less than five minutes for newer engines, and extended idling actually causes engine damage and shortens engine lifespan. Applicants can request funding for fuel-operated heaters, which keep the engine and passenger compartment warm without idling the engine. This piece of equipment reduces fuel consumption emission when compared to an idling engine.

Applications for the 2017 School Bus Rebate Program are expected to open by October 2017. Both public and private school bus fleets are eligible to apply for the funds.