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School districts encouraged to apply for EPA funding
ATLANTA – A nonprofit group dedicated to clean air for children encouraged Georgia school districts Tuesday to apply for federal funds to purchase electric school buses.
A new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program aims at providing school buses an alternative to gasoline or diesel fuel by funding electric buses. Currently, most buses in Georgia run on diesel.  

The agency will award around $1 billion annually for the next five years to school districts that want to purchase electric, propane, or CNG (compressed natural gas) vehicles.

The funding comes from the infrastructure spending bill Congress passed last year. Some of the funding can also be used for setting up electric-vehicle charging infrastructure. 

Increasing the number of electric buses on the road will improve Georgia children’s respiratory health, Stephanie Blank, co-founder of Mothers and Others for Clean Air, said during a news conference.    

Asthma is the top reason children are absent from school, Blank said.

Electrification of buses can also help with racial inequities, said Laura Turner Seydel, the group’s other co-founder.

Children from communities of color are more likely to ride buses to school and, therefore, more likely to be exposed to air pollution from buses, she said.

“No child should be made sick or die from dirty air,” she said.

At least 50 school districts in Georgia are submitting applications to the EPA, said R. Sam Ham, the director of alternative power for Yancey Bus Sales & Services. The Austell-based company is helping districts apply for the program.  

School districts can use the funding to purchase propane and CNG-fueled buses along with electric buses.

The first set of EPA awards will be announced in October.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.