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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

EPA Awards Missouri School Districts $21 Million for Cleaner Buses

Fleet of yellow school buses in a row.
Maksym Yemelyanov - stock.adobe.
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Another 63 Missouri School Districts are on the EPA Clean School Bus wait-list.

Missouri is joining the transition from diesel to electric school buses, as 26 school districts have been awarded $21 million in federal funds.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus Program is an outgrowth of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, which will spend $5 billion over the next five years to begin replacing the diesel school bus fleet.

Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said in addition to the environmental benefits, there are public health considerations as well.

"Health studies such as those done by Dr. Sara Adar at the University of Michigan public health found years ago that getting kids off of old dirty diesel school buses could save 14 million school-day absences per year and would help in terms of children's lung development."

Out of this first round of funding awards, 25 of the 26 districts applied to buy electric buses, with the East Prairie School District opting for propane.

One frequent reservation with electric vehicles is so-called range anxiety: concern about how far the bus can travel on a single charge. Winter is seen as the biggest area of concern when electric buses must also use their battery power to generate heat for passengers. Mudd noted experience with electric buses in multiple-cold weather states suggests the technology is meeting the challenge.

"In both Minnesota and Michigan, there've been electric buses that have been operating for over two years now through the winters and have not had problems with range," Mudd pointed out. "There's even been an electric school bus that's been operating in Alaska in the winter."

She added some districts begin by placing electric buses on shorter routes to gain confidence in battery technology.

The Missouri Public News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.

Brett brings 7 years of radio news writing experience at Metro Source. His reporting expertise is in monetary policy, economic systems, resource distribution, rent-seeking, and neo-feudalism.