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Advocates highlight need for electric school bus funding

Today, advocates rallied to urge state lawmakers to include funding for electric school buses in the 2023 NY State Budget. The group renewed their call for $300 million in the FY 2023 New York State Budget to electrify the ~50,000 diesel buses that operate in the state. The funds would support voucher incentives, charging station infrastructure costs, and technical support for both new bus purchases and retrofits of existing diesel buses to jump-start this transition. Governor Hochul, as well as leadership in the Assembly and Senate, have all supported the concept of electrifying school buses, however none of their budget proposals has provided the upfront spending necessary to jumpstart this transition.

This transition can aid in reducing air pollution in neighborhoods that have suffered from historic discrimination in access to housing and a legacy of racist land use planning policies resulting in the siting of a disproportionate number of polluting infrastructure and facilities.

A new report released today by USPIRG supports the calls of advocates and highlights the benefits transitioning to electric school buses would provide to communities and the environment. The report notes high upfront costs of electric school buses and additions, including charging infrastructure and installation, and training of staff to maintain the fleet, but also recognizes state grant and voucher programs will be necessary to help school districts with the transition. The report also emphasizes the need to prioritize funding for under-resourced school districts serving the most vulnerable and socio-economically disadvantaged communities.


During her state of the state speech, the Governor established a goal to electrify New York’s entire school bus fleet by 2035 and required that all new school bus purchases be electric starting in 2027. However, the mandate is not tied to a specific source of funding and fails to prioritize environmental justice school districts. The dedicated funding could provide ample financing and technical support to ensure that school districts and contractors can immediately begin to order electric buses, install necessary charging infrastructure, and train drivers and staff over the next 24 months.

QUOTES

“All kids deserve a clean commute to school, which requires the Legislature to back up Governor Hochul’s commitment to electric school buses with dedicated funding to get us there. In addition to ensuring children and bus drivers across New York aren’t breathing in toxic diesel fumes anymore, converting the state’s dirty school bus fleet to an all-electric fleet is critical climate action we must take today,” said Jessica Enzmann, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Representative

“We applaud the Governor’s commitment to electrify New York State’s school bus fleet by 2035. However, this commitment did not include the necessary financial resources for a successful transition. We must prioritize funding and investment in areas most in need, so they are not left behind. We need a just transition so that school bus drivers and maintenance workers have the proper training and technical assistance needed to maintain the buses. And we must make sure that there is equity in all facets ​of infrastructure, purchasing, and job training to ensure that the communities most harmed by fossil fuel pollution can begin to ensure a healthier future for school children,” said Jenny Veloz, Community Organizer for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.


“Getting to school shouldn’t include a daily dose of toxic pollution. Transitioning to all-electric buses would first and foremost ensure our children have a clean and healthy ride to school. But beyond that, it also provides an excellent opportunity to make dramatic improvements to our electric grid, providing significant new benefits for communities. Kids get to school, air pollution is reduced, and we store up some energy for when we need it: electric buses are a win-win-win proposition,” said Matt Casale, Environment Campaigns Director for US PIRG.

“Nearly 50,000 school buses that burn diesel or other dirty fossil fuels operate in New York every day, spewing tons of toxic pollutants into our air and worsening the climate crisis. To protect the health of schoolchildren, bus drivers, and all New Yorkers, the State must provide at least $300 million in this year’s budget to ensure we get a jumpstart towards New York’s critical goal of electrifying school buses by 2035,” said Alok Disa, Senior Research and Policy Analyst at Earthjustice.

“Dedicated funding and equitable distribution of electric school buses are necessary to ensure communities of color across the state are not left behind. Historically underinvested districts are at the risk of failing to meet the 2035 mandate to electrify their school bus fleets. That is why we need $300 million in this year’s budget to ensure the state meets it 2035 mandate,” said Kevin Garcia, Transportation Planner for the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

“The Governor and both houses of the legislature are on the road to requiring all school buses in operation be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. It is important the transition is executed equitably. As state leaders work towards a budget agreement, we urge them to consider adding funding in addition to the proposed changes to the aid formula to ensure that all schools have access to electric buses and not just the wealthy districts that can absorb the upfront costs. All children, no matter their zip code, should have the opportunity to breathe clean air,” said Conor Bambrick, Director of Climate Policy for Environmental Advocates NY.

“Electric school buses are a key part of meeting the state’s climate goals and moving from the bad old days of school bus fumes and deafening noise to healthier children and communities.  School districts need money now for planning and the up-front costs of EV bus purchases – which they’ll save over the long run on things like fuel and maintenance.  When it comes to New York’s climate plans, the budget is where the rubber meets the road and the rubber needs to be under electric school buses: The governor and Legislature need to step up and fund electric buses,” said Russ Haven, NYPIRG General Counsel.”


“Jobs to Move America applauds Governor Hochul for driving the electric school bus conversation from discussion to policy. But we need to do it the right way. That means dedicated funding for this transition to make it equitable. It means working closely with the bus workers’ unions to ensure that our drivers and technicians receive the job protections and training they need for these green technology opportunities. We must ensure that the next generation of school buses are manufactured in facilities that have family-sustaining wages and benefits, and equitable hiring and training practices that create opportunities for all workers and their communities. Let’s do this the right way, and with the funding to ensure a successful transition,” said Jay Mehta, Northeast Director,  Jobs to Move America.



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