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Senator Murray: “As we work to provide clean air and a brighter future for children in Washington state and across the country, it’s crucial for both the health of our students and the future of our planet that we invest in zero-emission transportation” 



(Washington, D.C.) – Today, at the start of Asthma Awareness Month, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) held a roundtable discussion with Washington state school and utility officials, as well as environmental advocates, about the need for a federal investment to electrify our nation’s school buses. Senator Murray and participants discussed how this investment would promote a cleaner environment, protect children’s health, and create good-paying jobs. Senator Murray was joined by Brett Blechschmidt, Associate Superintendent and Chief Operating Officer for Vancouver Public Schools; Jackie Flowers, Director of Tacoma Public Utilities; Lance Goodpaster, Franklin Pierce Schools Superintendent; and Rachel Heaton, a member of the Muckleshoot Tribe of Auburn, Washington and Moms Clean Air Force.

“As we work to provide clean air and a brighter future for children in Washington state and across the country, it’s crucial for both the health of our students and the future of our planet that we invest in zero-emission transportation,” said Senator Murray. “We have to take action on climate change, and we need to create good paying jobs for all Americans—these aren’t competing priorities, and when we invest in clean energy we can really make progress. I’ll be working closely with my colleagues and the Biden administration to get this done—electrifying our nation’s school buses will be an important investment for Washington state’s children and communities.”

This February, Senator Murray introduced the Clean School Bus Act. This legislation would provide $1 billion for grants to help school districts across the country replace traditional school buses with electric ones. By reducing students’ exposure to diesel exhaust, the bill would significantly reduce students’ risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and provide long-term savings to school districts.

The Clean School Bus Act would:

  • Authorize $1 billion over five years at the Department of Energy to fund a Clean School Bus Grant Program to spur increased adoption of this clean technology.
  • Provide grants of up to $2 million to replace diesel school buses with electric school buses, invest in charging infrastructure, and support workforce development. Right now, EV school buses cost significantly more than diesel, so it is often cost-prohibitive upfront for school districts. However, the long-term costs of EV school buses are significantly lower because there is no diesel fuel cost, so they are actually cheaper overall – but, the purchase price is still too high.
  • Give priority to school districts that serve a high percentage students from families with low-incomes, replace the most polluting buses, and leverage the funding to further decrease pollution and emissions, including through partnerships with local utilities.
  • Significantly, this bill ensures that school districts that do not own their fleets directly – which includes many school districts in Washington state, who instead contract for their fleets – are also eligible for grants.

“Senator Murray’s legislation will have a significant impact on our local school districts’ ability to invest in cleaner transportation options,” said Jackie Flowers, director of Utilities at Tacoma Public Utilities. “Tacoma Power stands ready to continue our work with Franklin-Pierce and other school districts in our area to power our school buses with clean, renewable hydropower and reduce emissions for the benefit of students and everyone in our community.”

“We need to commit to healthy bus rides. Most of our seventy-five-hundred students rely on buses to attend school. These vehicles and our drivers are critical components of students’ education and equalizers in addressing barriers," said Lance Goodpaster, Superintendent for Franklin Pierce Public Schools. "Electric buses provide a healthy and environmentally beneficial alternative for our students and our communities. These buses are a significant upgrade.”

“We were extremely excited to hear of Senator Murray’s bold plan to help remove some of the short-term cost barriers that prevent school districts across the country from taking advantage of the significant long-term benefits of electric buses for our children and communities – and we’re excited to hear more,” said Brett Blechschmidt, Associate Superintendent and Chief Operating Officer for Vancouver Public Schools.

“I’m happy to see that this plan ties in with the American Jobs Plan. And because this gives us an opportunity, not just to transition to electric school buses, but the opportunity to rebuild our country’s infrastructure and invest in a way that they haven’t before," said Rachel Heaton, member of Moms Clean Air Force and Muckleshoot Tribe. "Specifically in our low income communities and communities like mine, children continue to be exposed to diesel pollution and obviously there's a rise in asthma attacks, and in turn that creates a domino effect of other issues. Missing school, rising costs, loss of work for parents. So the idea of knowing that we're creating a cleaner environment - one of the teachings that anyone who has worked with our Native communities knows is that we always plan seven generations ahead. So this work is really planning not just for our children today, it's creating a future for the seven generations after us."

Every day, more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers breathe polluted air during their commute to school, which has a negative impact on students’ health and academic performance, particularly for students with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Further, transportation accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. With approximately 500,000 school buses on the road traveling over 3 billion miles per year, this bill will assist school districts in transitioning to cleaner buses that can accelerate the electrification of the nation’s school bus fleet.

Key portions of Senator Murray’s bill were included in President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ American Jobs Plan, which sets a goal of transitioning 20 percent of the nation’s school bus fleet to electric buses. Earlier last month Vice President Harris toured an electric bus manufacturer in North Carolina and President Biden virtually toured an electric bus manufacturing plant in South Carolina.