Clean School Bus Program

The Program:
In July 2005, the President signed into law H.R. 3, a bill to extend the nation’s Highway programs. Section 6015 of HR 3 is a newer version of EPA’s Clean School Bus USA program. The new Clean School Bus Program would provide grants to assist school districts in replacing older school buses with new low-emitting school buses (including natural gas school buses) and to retrofit existing school buses with emission reducing technologies. Repowering diesel school buses with natural gas engines would be considered a retrofit for the purpose of this program. The program would also help fund the construction of new natural gas fueling stations for the school buses.
The new law directs the EPA to “achieve an appropriate balance” between spending for replacement buses, for retrofitting existing buses and for the use of alternative fuels. School districts purchasing new alternative fueled replacement buses may receive the following for the purchase of alternative fuel and clean diesel school buses:

  • 50 percent of the cost of the new bus if they meet tight emission standards, namely:
    • For MY2005 and 2006, 1.8 grams NOx plus NMHC and 0.01 PM
    • For MY2007, 2008 and 2009, 0.2 NOx plus NMHC and 0.01 PM (the 2010 EPA emission standards)
  • 25 percent of the cost of the new bus if they meet less strict emission standards, namely:
    • For MY2005 and 2006, 2.5 grams NOx plus NMHC and 0.01 PM (which is the minimum standard for diesel engines)
    • For MY2007, 2008 and 2009, “regulatory requirements” by EPA. This is assumed to mean the phase-in requirement to 2010 which is 1.8 grams NOx plus NMHC and 0.01 PM.

Funding for fueling infrastructure may represent up to 25 percent of the total cost of the grant. No state can receive more than 10 percent of the monies made available each year. The legislation authorizes $55 million for FY2006, $55 million for FY 2007 and ” such sums as are necessary” for fiscal years 2008-2010.

FY07 Clean School Bus Program Appropriations:
The 2005 Energy and Highway bills authorized a number of programs to reduce emissions from diesel engines. Among these were: the Diesel Emission Reduction Program (DERP); the Diesel Truck Retrofit and Fleet Modernization Program; the Idle Reduction Program and the Clean School Bus Program. All of these programs are either newly authorized (and thus modify programs that the EPA had operated and provided some funds for over the past years, i.e. the National Clean Diesel Campaign, and the Clean School Bus USA program, or create new programs such as the Diesel Truck Retrofit and Fleet Modernization Program. Authorizing these programs allowed the Congress to direct the EPA how to operate the program, provide it with higher funding authorization levels, and indicate strong Congressional support.

After the Highway and Energy bills were signed into law, a question arose among the supporters of these various program as to how best to achieve the proper amount of funding for them and as to how the funds were to be distributed. Encouraged by Senators John Voinovich (R-OH), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Tom Carper (D-DE), a decision was made by all interested parties to join forces. As a result, rather than the supporters of each of these individual programs lobbying separately for the FY’07 appropriations, all would support an effort to fund the four programs out of DERP program funds. The FY’07 authorization for these four programs was $305 million. Thus, if all programs were fully funded, it would result in significant increases in funding for natural gas school buses as well as the other programs. All supporters of the four programs encouraged the EPA to support the effort and to provide $200 million for DERP. The result of the effort with the Administration was that the EPA requested $49.5 million for DERP in its FY ’07 budget request;

The full House, which has passed the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill (HR 5386; H. Rpt. 109-465) for FY ’07, proposes $28 million for DERP. A copy of the bill and the Committee report can be accessed through: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/R?cp109:FLD010:@1(hr465). The Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations bill (HR 5386; Sen. Rpt. 109-275) for FY ’07, proposes $20 million for DERP. A copy of the bill and the Committee report can be accessed through: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/R?cp109:FLD010:@1(sr275). After the measure has been considered by the full Senate, it must then be reconciled with the House passed bill.

Projected NGVAmerica activities for 2007:
NGVAmerica will continue to work closely with the Clean School Bus Coalition to include in the Administration’s FY2008 Budget request the full $55 million authorized in H.R. 3 for the Clean Bus Program, and will work to include those funds in the FY2008 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.

For more information on the regulations promulgation for these legislative provisions, click here.

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