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Funds for clean school buses coming to four Arkansas districts, White House says

The Biden administration said Wednesday it will provide funding to help school districts, including four in Arkansas, purchase clean school buses, most of them electric. Pictured is a yellow electric school bus connected to a charging station. | Photo by TW Farlow/Getty Images

By SHAUNEEN MIRANDA

WASHINGTON — Four school districts in Arkansas will receive a total of about $11 million in federal funds to buy clean-energy school buses as part of the Biden administration’s effort to replace diesel-powered buses, officials announced Wednesday.

The administration’s initiative, part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program rebate competition, will provide funds to approximately 530 school districts in 47 states and the District of Columbia to purchase more than 3,400 clean buses. Alaska, Hawaii and Nevada are not part of this funding round.

According to the administration, almost all purchased clean school buses will be electric, namely 92%.

The Little Rock School District will receive the bulk of the money sent to Arkansas — $8.625 million — to buy 25 electric buses, according to the White House. Other districts and the amounts they will receive: Batesville, $365,000 for one electric bus; Farmington, $1.220 million for six buses; and Quitman, $820,000 for four buses.

“This announcement isn’t just about clean school buses, it’s about the bigger picture,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said on a call with reporters Tuesday, ahead of the announcement.

“We are improving air quality for our children, reducing greenhouse gas pollution and extending our nation’s leadership in developing the clean vehicles of the future.”

According to the government, low-income, rural and tribal communities – which account for about 45% of the selected projects – will receive about 67% of the total funding.

Regan noted how “low-income communities and communities of color have long felt the disproportionate impact of air pollution, leading to serious health consequences that continue to impact these populations.”

In terms of business and economic opportunities, Regan pointed to the development of new, well-paying manufacturing jobs and investments in local businesses as a result of the increasing demand for these clean school buses.

“As more schools transition to electric buses, there will be a need for American-made batteries, charging stations and service providers to keep buses running and revive the local economy,” he added.

The Clean School Bus Program has now collectively awarded nearly $3 billion to fund approximately 8,500 electric and alternative fuel buses for more than 1,000 communities across the United States, the administration said.

The program was launched through the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, which includes $5 billion over five years to transform the nation’s existing school buses with “zero emissions and low emissions models,” the EPA said.

In addition to the many negative health and environmental impacts, especially for communities of color, exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to serious health problems such as asthma and respiratory diseases, according to the EPA.

Exposure to diesel exhaust can also “aggravate existing heart and lung diseases, especially in children and the elderly,” the agency said.

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