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.
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.”
“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.
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.