Posted on January 24, 2024
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Categories: News from SDP

The School District of Philadelphia has received a grant of nearly $8 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to double its electric bus fleet. With the additional 20 electric buses the District will acquire through the grant, the School District of Philadelphia will have 40 electric buses by 2027. This is the largest grant the District has been awarded for electric buses. 

“We are pleased to be leading the way here in Philadelphia as we grow our zero-emission vehicles fleet and create cleaner and healthier environments for our children,” said Tony B. Watlington, Sr., Ed.D. “We are grateful to the EPA and our elected officials who are helping us secure these additional funds as we continue to advocate for adequate and equitable funding for our students.”

Created by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA’s Clean School Bus (CSB) Program provides $5 billion over five years (FY 2022-2026) to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and clean school buses. Last week’s announcement of Clean School Bus grants are the second round of selections announced for the newly created program. Five Pennsylvania school districts were part of the selections, thanks to funding secured by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). 

The first five electric school buses for the School District of Philadelphia hit the streets during the 2021-2022 school year through the support of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA). These all-electric buses were the first of their kind in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Beyond electric buses, the District also has 38 propane buses, another clean, alternative fuel.

“The EV buses have positively impacted our bus fleet,” said Teresa Fleming, Deputy Chief Operations Officer for the School District of Philadelphia. “Our bus chauffeurs have embraced their deployment into our fleet, and have said the EV buses are great. They provide a comfortable and quiet ride for staff and students.”

Replacing older diesel school buses with new technologies that focus on low emissions, improved fuel economy and safety for students and drivers is part of the District’s sustainability plan GreenFutures as it addresses climate change and can help children’s health. An electric school bus replacing a diesel school bus is the equivalent of removing 23 tons of greenhouse gasses per year. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), transportation accounts for nearly one-third of all emissions, which is the highest of any sector, and heavy-duty transportation is about one-quarter of those emissions. Deploying electric school buses will cut down on respiratory contaminants in the air, ultimately improving community health while also eliminating noise pollution.

“I would like to congratulate Dr. Tony Watlington and the entire team at the School District of Philadelphia for being awarded a $7.9 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase the District’s electric bus fleet,” said Philadelphia City Council Majority Leader Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Chair of City Council’s Committee on the Environment. “Replacing diesel school buses is not only a win-win for the environment, but it is also beneficial to our environmental justice communities of concern that bear the brunt of toxic carbon emissions. By electrifying as much of our fleet as possible, we can improve air quality, reduce the impact of extreme heat, and work towards ensuring environmental justice and climate resiliency for all residents.”

In April, the District is hosting its first ever Summit for Sustainable Schools. This live event will feature panel discussions and breakout sessions exploring practical applications of whole-school sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles. The District is currently accepting proposals for the event. Individuals or groups who are interested in presenting interactive workshops, panel discussions, and hands-on sessions that align with the event objectives and themes should apply through the online application. 

This recent EPA announcement is the second grant from EPA in the last two years. Last fall, the District received nearly $5M under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act to expand the District’s work to reduce the potential risk of lead exposure through drinking water. This additional funding will help the District’s goal of having one filtered hydration station for every 100 students and at least one on each floor of every school building. More than 1,850 hydration stations have been installed throughout the District since 2017, when the District implemented a GreenFutures sustainability initiative to promote greater access and appeal to quality drinking water. 

For more information about the District’s GreenFutures Program, please visit this website.