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EPA funds help South Carolina upgrade diesel school buses

April 22, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As congressional Democrats introduce legislation to electrify the nation’s school bus fleet, South Carolina is getting nearly half a million in federal funds to upgrade some of the state’s older diesel school buses.

A $480,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is being used to replace 24 buses from 10 districts across South Carolina, officials with the state Department of Education said Thursday.

The funding is part of $10.5 million the EPA is awarding to 40 states to replace a total of 473 diesel buses, an effort aimed at reducing pollutants that are linked to asthma and lung damage.

“The South Carolina Department of Education is grateful to receive this funding, which will continue the efforts of replacing our state’s aging fleet with cleaner and more efficient buses,” State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said.

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The upgrades come as Democrats in Washington on Wednesday introduced legislation that would invest $25 billion to convert the nation’s fleet of gasoline- and diesel-powered school buses to electric vehicles.

The legislation would build on a component of President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan: the electrification of school buses, which Biden sees as an important step in addressing climate change and economic inequities.

Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have been promoting the plan this week. On Monday, Harris visited a North Carolina bus manufacturing plant to pitch the deal. The next day, Biden took a virtual tour of Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer in Greenville.

The bill introduced Wednesday would authorize federal grant money over 10 years, with 40% of it devoted to replacing school buses that serve mostly nonwhite, poorer communities.

It would cover the expense of purchasing electric school buses, building charging stations and providing workforce training. The legislation also directs the EPA to conduct outreach to help school districts with the transition.

School buses typically carry nearly 25 million children each day. Studies have found that emissions from diesel engines may contribute to respiratory illnesses.

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Follow Meg Kinnard on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.