$400 Million in Funding to Protect Children from Exposure to Dangerous Diesel Exhaust


For Immediate Release
April 26, 2023
Media Contact: Catalina V. Silva
Humanity Communications Collective


WASHINGTON — WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a Harlem-based and nationally recognized nonprofit organization committed to bringing environmental injustices to light, praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcement of the 2023 Clean School Bus Grant Program, which will provide $400 million in competitive grants to assist school districts in replacing older diesel school buses with zero-tailpipe-emission, electric models, especially for Low-Income, Tribal and Rural Priority School Districts. WE ACT has a long history of advocating for clean air and transportation for communities that have been disproportionately affected by diesel pollution.

This is the second round of funding of the $5 billion for the Clean School Bus Program appropriated under the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The program is a critical step towards clean air, and improving the overall health of students, drivers, and the communities school buses traverse.

“Over 20 million children rely on school bus transportation, which mostly runs on diesel fuel – a known carcinogenic that exacerbates respiratory illnesses like asthma. Students living in low-income and communities of color, which are already overburdened with air pollution, are more likely to ride in diesel school buses and, thus, be exposed to even more harmful pollution during their daily commutes” said Anastasia Gordon, Energy and Transportation Policy Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “The 2023 Clean School Bus Grant Program is another opportunity for transitioning the national fleet to zero-emission electric buses, provide training and jobs for new and current workers, and begin to clean the air and improve health for our children and communities most impacted by transportation pollution. This is a significant action for environmental justice and a crucial investment in our collective health.”

The Clean School Bus Program has already made a significant impact by providing rebates to school districts and bus contractors across the country last year. The 2022 rebates will invest a total of $965 million for 2,463 new school buses, 95 percent of which will be electric school buses, in 389 school districts in all 50 states, along with several Tribal nations and US territories. We are pleased that this year’s funding will provide even more opportunities for school districts to reduce emissions by transitioning to electric school buses and protect the health of our children and communities overburdened by pollution from the transportation sector.

Exposure to diesel exhaust worsens asthma symptoms and causes other respiratory issues, particularly in children whose lungs are still developing. By reducing emissions from fossil-fueled school buses, the Clean School Bus Program can help protect the health of children and communities near schools. This program aligns with WE ACT’s mission to ensure that every community has a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

“Prior to the initial round of funding from this program, in which New York received $70 million for electric school buses, the vast majority of the approximately 10,000 school buses that serve our city ran on diesel fuel, which means the exhaust they produce is a Group 1 carcinogen with high levels of particulate matter pollution that studies have shown increase the threats of asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, heart attacks, lung cancer, and premature death,” explained Lonnie Portis, WE ACT’s New York City Policy and Advocacy Manager. “But that only amounts to 51 actual buses, along with the necessary infrastructure, which is a drop in the bucket for the largest fleet in the nation. With both City and State mandates for electric school buses, these additional funding opportunities are welcome, and we will be urging our leaders in New York City to aggressively pursue them.”

WE ACT urges school districts, bus contractors, and other eligible entities to apply for the 2023 Clean School Bus Grant Program by August 22, 2022, and take advantage of this important opportunity to improve air quality and promote healthier communities. We also encourage the EPA to continue outreach and raise awareness about the program, the benefits of clean, electric school buses, and the resources and technical assistance available to help eligible school districts with their grant applications.

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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in creating sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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