Jack Walker Published

W.Va. Receives Nearly $2 Million For Electric School Buses

A yellow, electric school bus is shown parked on the side of the road. A man holding an umbrella approaches it. The sky is overcast, and it is raining.
School districts in Calhoun, McDowell, Randolph and Summers counties will receive federal rebates for their purchase of electric school buses this year.
Curtis Tate/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

More than 25 million children across the United States ride the school bus each day, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. In West Virginia, approximately 220,000 students ride the bus each school day, according to transportation news source School Bus Fleet. But these vehicles emit greenhouse gasses that can harm both the environment and public health.

To address this, federal officials are encouraging schools to switch to electric buses. And new funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aims to help four West Virginia school districts do just that.

The EPA this week approved a cumulative $2 million in rebates for West Virginia school districts that plan to purchase electric school buses this year.

The funding comes as part of a national rebate program for school districts making the switch to cleaner buses. In a virtual press briefing Tuesday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan described the program as a national priority.

“We’re advancing environmental justice and helping level the playing field for children who suffer from the higher rates of respiratory issues and other health conditions because of the air they breathe,” Regan said. “When we prioritize the health and well being of our children, we’re not just making a difference in their lives. But we’re also setting the foundation for a safer, healthier and more sustainable planet.”

West Virginia’s slice of the rebate is just a fraction of the $900 million provided by the EPA this year.

Calhoun, McDowell and Summers county school districts will each receive a rebate to purchase one clean school bus, and Randolph County will purchase two.

Efforts to convert West Virginia school districts to lower-emission school buses stretch beyond this latest round of funding.

In January, the EPA granted GreenPower Motor Company more than $18 million to build 47 electric school buses in its South Charleston facility, slated for nine school districts across the state.

During Tuesday’s call, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Natalie Quillian said creating new union jobs through the construction of electric vehicles was an added perk for the Biden administration.

“Not only is this funding providing cleaner air, it’s also helping tackle climate change and creating good paying union jobs and electric school bus manufacturing,” she said.

But not all Americans back the transition to electric vehicles, including some West Virginians.

New federal standards that limit carbon emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles drew criticism from Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. and U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., in March.

The lawmakers expressed concern that an abrupt switch to electric vehicles would place undue burden on American consumers, and potentially force them to rely on vehicles produced abroad.

When asked whether federal interventions like the rebate program are necessary to make a full switch to electric vehicles, Regan said that he didn’t want to get into “local politics,” and that the program has been popular nationally.

“Each year our program is oversubscribed. And so we have a lot of demand out there for electric school buses from districts all across the country,” he said.

The Clean School Bus Program was established in 2021, with funding for five years of operation.

Since then, Regan said the EPA has helped fund the purchase of approximately 8,500 electric and low-emission school buses by roughly 1,000 school districts across the country.

For school districts in West Virginia and beyond, rebates won’t come immediately. Schools must first buy the vehicles themselves, then send the EPA documentation of the purchase.

EPA officials said there is no singular timeline for when school districts will receive their new buses, but that purchases are likely to be made over the course of the next several months.