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Schools given five years to buy electric buses – Evening Observer

Apr 20, 2022
School districts across the state will have five years to begin purchasing electric-powered school buses.
Legislation included in the 2022-23 state budget approved last week includes two timelines for school districts to begin using electric buses — a 2027 deadline to begin purchasing them and a 2035 deadline for schools around the state to have an all-electric school bus fleet. According to the Albany Times Union, the budget legislation does allow the state Education Department to delay the 2027 deadline if costs are too high or if parts aren’t available. School districts can also apply for a one-time, two-year waiver from the requirement, according to the Times Union.
State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, questioned Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, on the Senate floor about the school bus plan, probing specifically for protections for smaller school districts as they move to electric buses. The budget includes $500 million for electric school buses as well as a requirement that the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority provide technical assistance to school districts as they plan for an electric bus fleet.
“Yes there is a recognition that different school districts have different models now for leasing or owning school buses and that we’ll need to be making adjustments for that. Recognize there may be significant economies of scale if the state is doing its own research and even purchasing buses for school districts. That’s open to that possibility. And 35% (of the $500 million) is committed to disadvantaged communities. Because we passed that fabulous CLCPA, it requires us, for any of these climate change actions moving forward, to require that 35% of all spending be specifically to disadvantaged communities, so that would apply as well to the school buses question. They do not all have to convert within x number of years. It’s just new buses that are being purchased or leased have to be electric by 2027.”
According to the Buffalo News, the Buffalo City School District has already begun purchasing electric school buses while New York City has also approved legislation requiring the city’s 9,500 school buses to be electric by 2035.
Borrello asked if it would have been better to allow school districts some leeway to move buses to simply zero emissions without requiring the buses to be electric as well as why the Senate’s one-house budget proposal to also require municipal buses to move to electric fleets wasn’t included in the final budget.
“Would we try to upgrade them first to zero emissions, because we’re talking about 600-plus school districts,” Borrello asked. “Municipals there are less entities producing more emissions.”
Krueger said the municipal bus requirement was eliminated over cost concerns.
“I think there is almost universal agreement that the importance of making sure we have a statewide system of non-polluting school buses is crucial to every community in the state,” she said. “When you’re talking about mass transit or bus systems overall, we still believe we can be moving forward through the MTA, our largest regional mass transit system, to move them to non-polluting buses with not necessarily having to go through this bond act.”
While the legislature approved the $500 million bond act, it has yet to act on legislation proposed in the Assembly and Senate that would allow reimbursement not just for the purchase of buses but for the infrastructure school districts will need to install to have an electric school bus fleet.
A.6754/S.5268, sponsored by Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, and Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, have each attracted dozens of fellow Democrats as co-sponsors. Fahy and Kennedy propose allowing school districts to apply to NYSERDA to cover electrification costs between 2022 and 2030. NYSERDA would cover 10% of the cost of the cost of an electric school bus for school districts receiving between 20% and 35% of their total revenue from state school aid with the state’s share increasing if a school is more dependent on state aid.
The proposal has yet to move out of committee in either the Assembly or Senate.
“The electrification of buses — both transit and school buses — provides a reliable and cost-effective option for cities and school districts, all while reducing the environmental and health threats posed by diesel fuels,” Fahy and Kennedy wrote in their legislative justification. “The financial burden of transitioning between diesel and electric power is the biggest obstacle preventing a full transition to electric, and it is the responsibility of the legislature to assist our overloaded school districts with all costs incurred or related to the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, cost of electricity for charging vehicles, or the purchasing or leasing of the vehicles themselves.”
New York is the first state to require electric school buses but its schools aren’t the only ones making the switch. News reports around the country are filled with local school districts moving toward electric buses.
Earlier this month, Boston officials announced plans to replace its entire fleet of more than 700 school buses with electric vehicles by 2030, starting with 20 buses that will be taking kids to school some time during the next school year, Mayor Michelle Wu said recently, according to the Associated Press. The estimated $7 million cost of purchasing the first 20 electric buses will be paid for with funds from the school department’s operating budget as well as federal coronavirus stimulus funds, officials said.
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