Vice President Kamala Harris takes the stage for an event in Seattle
Vice President Kamala Harris greets an enthusiastic crowd of supporters at Lumen Field in Seattle to announce the awarding of $1 billion to 389 districts for clean school bus purchases (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

389 school dis­tricts across the Unit­ed States will soon receive about $1 bil­lion in fund­ing from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to pur­chase thou­sands of clean elec­tric school bus­es for stu­dent trans­porta­tion, the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion announced today at an event in down­town Seattle.

Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris head­lined a morn­ing event at Lumen Field with stu­dents, par­ents, and the press to laud the award­ing of the grants.

She was joined by Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Admin­is­tra­tor Michael Regan, Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, Seat­tle May­or Bruce Har­rell, and the state’s senior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor, Pat­ty Mur­ray, who was one of the votes for the Infra­struc­ture Invest­ment and Jobs Act of 2021, which cre­at­ed the program.

A crowd gathers to welcome Vice President Kamala Harris to Seattle
Atten­dees assem­ble at Lumen Field for the event with Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Admin­is­tra­tor Michael Regan, Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, Seat­tle May­or Bruce Har­rell, and the state’s senior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor, Pat­ty Mur­ray (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The event was part of the Vice Pres­i­den­t’s first offi­cial vis­it to Seat­tle and Wash­ing­ton State since tak­ing office in Jan­u­ary of 2021. Pres­i­dent Biden made his first trip to the state as Pres­i­dent last April, while First Lady Jill Biden has vis­it­ed mul­ti­ple times, includ­ing ear­li­er this month. The Vice Pres­i­dent also spoke at a fundrais­er for Sen­a­tor Mur­ray’s reelec­tion cam­paign at the Show­box Market.

A large num­ber of stu­dents were on hand for the Lumen Field event, with one, Audrey Gmerek, hav­ing the hon­or of intro­duc­ing Har­ris. Gmerek is involved in the Unit­ed Stu­dent Lead­ers and runs cross coun­try at South Whid­bey High School.

A group of stu­dents and par­ents even got to par­tic­i­pate in Har­ris’ motor­cade (which left the Fair­mont Olympic Hotel at 9:31 AM) on an elec­tric school bus.

The assem­bled crowd offered a warm wel­come as the Vice Pres­i­dent walked out, prompt­ing Har­ris to smile broad­ly, laugh and declare: “I’m here because of all of our young lead­ers who are here. It is you who has moti­vat­ed the work that we are doing that is demon­strat­ed by these beau­ti­ful yel­low school buses.”

South Whid­bey is one of five dis­tricts in Wash­ing­ton State that were select­ed for rebates by the EPA in this first round of the clean school bus program.

The Vice Pres­i­dent not­ed that there’s much more to come. The Infra­struc­ture Invest­ment and Jobs Act autho­rizes a total of $5 bil­lion for clean school bus­es. This first round includes awards that total about $1 bil­lion, as mentioned.

“Twen­ty-five mil­lion chil­dren a day go to school on the yel­low school bus — twen­ty-five mil­lion chil­dren a day,” Har­ris observed. “And today, nine­ty-five per­cent of our school bus­es are fueled with diesel fuel, which con­tributes to very seri­ous con­di­tions that are about health and about the abil­i­ty to learn.

“So, when I think about what the expe­ri­ence should be for our chil­dren of going to school on the school bus, I think about the fact that it should be about max­i­miz­ing that expe­ri­ence for them, under­stand­ing that this bus sym­bol­izes so much about our col­lec­tive invest­ment in our future. Because, of course, it is about our invest­ment in our chil­dren, in their health, and in their education.”

“And these invest­ments are going to go every­where that our school bus­es go. It’s going to be in urban com­mu­ni­ties. It’s going to be in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, Trib­al com­mu­ni­ties. It will be in all fifty states.”

Vice President Kamala Harris offers remarks in Seattle
Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris began and end­ed her speech at Lumen Field in Seat­tle by acknowl­edg­ing youth lead­er­ship and advo­ca­cy on cli­mate (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“What we’re announc­ing today is a step for­ward in our nation’s com­mit­ment to be a leader on these issues to reduce green­house gas emis­sions, to invest in our econ­o­my, to invest in job cre­ation, to invest in build­ing the skills of Amer­i­ca’s work­force — all with, as that young leader this morn­ing said to me, a goal of not only sav­ing our chil­dren, but, for them, sav­ing our planet.”

Atten­dees had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to climb aboard one of the elec­tric school bus­es parked around the stage from which Har­ris and the oth­er elect­ed offi­cials spoke. Many young­sters got their pho­tos tak­en behind the wheel of the bus.

The bus­es behind Har­ris bore the name of the High­line School Dis­trict, which serves around 18,000 stu­dents in South King County.

An electric school bus
An elec­tric school bus on dis­play at the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion’s Lumen Field clean school bus award announce­ment event (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The Pacif­ic North­west has been a leader in bus electrification.

King Coun­ty Metro has set a goal of end­ing its reliance on fos­sil fuels by com­plete­ly elec­tri­fy­ing the fleet as of the year 2035. The agency has been an ear­ly adopter of elec­tric bus­es and is buy­ing more — in fact, this year, Metro says that “an addi­tion­al forty bat­tery-elec­tric coach­es are set to start arriv­ing to join the Metro fleet. Pro­duced by New Fly­er, both the 60-foot and 40-foot vehi­cles can trav­el 140 miles on a full charge, test­ed to approx­i­mate a full pas­sen­ger load.”

“Those school dis­tricts who received an award can now pro­ceed with pur­chas­ing new bus­es and eli­gi­ble infra­struc­ture,” the EPA explained in its announcement.

“Selectees will need to sub­mit Pay­ment Request Forms with pur­chase orders demon­strat­ing they have ordered new bus­es and eli­gi­ble infrastructure.”

“EPA is also part­ner­ing with the U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy and Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion to pro­vide school dis­tricts with robust tech­ni­cal assis­tance to ensure effec­tive implementation.”

This means that it should­n’t be long before the Pacif­ic North­west dis­tricts cho­sen by EPA for this first round of grants can put in their pur­chase orders.

Thanks to these clean trans­porta­tion invest­ments, we are get­ting one step clos­er to a more sus­tain­able future in which we lib­er­ate our­selves from dirty fos­sil fuels.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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