State awards $30 million for clean school bus replacements, including 43 new electric school buses

More than $30.1 million from the N.C. Volkswagen Settlement Program will be distributed by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to fund 161 new school buses across the state, with the majority of the funding going toward new all-electric school buses.

The new zero-emission and low-emission school buses are replacing some of the dirtiest diesel buses in the state, including some older than 30 years that emit more than 20 times the nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter of today’s clean buses.

“Today is a good day for the health and pocketbooks of North Carolinians as we continue on our path to clean transportation,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “Transitioning to cleaner school buses reduces greenhouse gas emissions, lowers costs to our schools, creates great manufacturing jobs and reduces pollution in our poorer communities.”

“Switching to new low- and zero-emission school buses has immediate public health benefits for the children who ride them and improves air quality in our communities,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser.

The new buses will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 126 tons over their lifetimes combined. More than $16.5 million will fund 43 electric school buses and associated charging infrastructure, providing a 100% reduction in diesel emissions and greenhouse gases for these projects. NOx leads to the formation of ground-level ozone, which in turn aggravates asthma and can cause breathing trouble in young children and older adults. The small particles that make up particulate matter are linked to heart and lung conditions.

The grant recipients include public schools, charter schools and a tribal school in 84 counties. Most of the buses, 130, will be placed in rural counties. Of those, 80 school buses were awarded to schools in the 37 historically under-resourced counties that DEQ targeted for additional outreach and support during the application process. The goal of that program was to support the equitable distribution of Volkswagen Settlement funding across the state. The full list of awarded projects is on DEQ’s website.

As the clean school buses are ordered and delivered, the old school buses will be destroyed, ensuring they no longer pollute the air in communities near schools.

The N.C. Volkswagen Settlement School Bus Program involved a competitive application process where projects were scored by a selection committee of staff in DEQ’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ). In total, DAQ received 42 applications seeking more than $58 million in funding for more than 330 clean school buses. The selection committee fully or partially funded at least one requested bus from each county that had an application.

The School Bus Program is the largest grant program in Phase 2 of the N.C. Volkswagen Settlement Program, which covers the remaining $68 million of the state’s share of a national settlement with the automaker. The state is awarding the funds through grants and rebates to support the replacement of old diesel vehicles with clean alternatives and the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the state.

DEQ has also awarded more than $1 million in Volkswagen Settlement funds to state agencies to install Level 2 zero-emission vehicle charging infrastructure. These 103 charging ports will be installed at 25 sites, including state parks, museums, aquariums, government office buildings, universities, and community colleges. In this program, 22 of the charging ports will be in historically under-resourced counties. Thirteen of those chargers will be used to charge state agency fleet vehicles and support Governor Cooper’s efforts under Executive Order No. 80 to transition the state motor fleet to zero-emission vehicles, while the remainder will be available for public use.

DAQ will continue to accept rebate applications to install Level 2 charging infrastructure at workplaces, multi-unit dwellings and publicly accessible locations on a first-come, first-served basis until allocated funds are exhausted. The amount of remaining funds available and information on how to apply are online.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.