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EPA reps visit Wabaunsee USD 329 to highlight Clean School Bus Program

EPA reps visit Wabaunsee USD 329 to highlight Clean School Bus Program

EPA is working to decarbonize America’s school bus fleets

Michael Regan, administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made a stop in Alma on Wednesday, Feb. 8, to highlight the efforts and partnerships to decarbonize America’s school bus fleets. 

Regan and Wabaunsee Unified School District 329 staff members met at Wabaunsee Senior High School to discuss Kansas’ first two electric school buses, which were delivered to the district on Wednesday, Dec. 16. 

Wabaunsee received the two electric buses through the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program. Staff members from Lion Electric, the vendor of the electric buses, spent Dec. 16 training bus drivers and other district staff members. 

Wednesday’s gathering kicked off with a roundtable discussion in the high school’s gymnasium. 

Also attending the event were: 

  • Secretary Janet Stanek, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). 
  • Keith Dreiling, School Bus Safety Unit, Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). 
  • Meg McCollister, EPA regional administrator. 
  • Mayor Maurice Baker, Alma. 
  • David Campbell, president and CEO, Evergy. 
  • Alex Hofmann, chief strategy and operations officer, Beneficial Electrification League. 
  • Doug Shepherd, vice president, Kansas Electric Cooperatives. 
  • Scott Ayres, CEO, Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative Association. 
  • Colin Hansen, CEO, Kansas Power Pool. 
  • Ty Gormon, Kansas Sierra Club Campaign National Representative. 
  • Nate Baguio, senior vice president of commercial development, Lion Electric. 

"I didn't realize how many partners are involved in this," said Dr. Troy Pitsch, Wabaunsee superintendent. "This is fantastic seeing all of the parties sitting at the table who had a hand in this. It was fascinating for me. I foresee the conversations getting smarter and smarter."

Each 71-passenger school buses cost about $395,000, which was covered by the EPA Clean School Bus Program. Wabaunsee was one of six Kansas school districts to receive funding for electric buses through the program. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 authorizes EPA to offer rebates to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission models to reduce harmful admissions from older buses. The EPA received about 2,000 applications requesting nearly $4 billion for more than 12,000 buses. The EPA selected 404 applicants, including the six in Kansas, and awarded a total of $949,595,000. 

The applicant pool included submissions from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and federally recognized tribes. 

This was the first round of funding from the EPA Clean School Bus Program, which President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created with a $5 billion investment for low- and zero-emission school buses during the next five years. 

Wabaunsee USD 329 began using the electric school buses shortly after students returned from winter break in January, Superintendent Pitsch said. The buses have been well-received by students, parents and the community. Many people are curious about how much money the district will be able to save in the long run using the two electric buses, which make up about 20% of the district's fleet.

The electric school buses that Wabaunsee received from Lion have a range of about 100 miles per charge, Pitsch said. If companies are able to expand that range, Wabaunsee "would definitely" be interested in adding more electric buses to its fleet.

The other five districts in Kansas to receive funding are: 

  • Southern Lyon County, four buses, $372,500 per bus, a total amount of $1,490,000. 
  • Waconda USD 272, four buses, $395,000 per bus, a total amount of $1,580,000. 
  • Sterling USD 376, two buses, $395,000 per bus, a total amount of $790,000. 
  • Caney Valley USD 437, two buses, $395,000 per bus, a total amount of $790,000. 
  • Halstead USD 440, three buses, $395,000 per bus, a total amount of $1,185,000.

Wabaunsee USD 329 is the first Kansas district to have and use electric school buses. The delivery of the two electric buses to Alma in December - as well as the EPA representatives' visit this week - have thrust the small community and district into the spotlight. However, Pitsch said, that wasn't why Wabaunsee USD 329 wanted to get involved with the program.

"We did not jump into this to be the first of anything," he said. "We did our homework on them."

Pitsch said district representatives visited a district in Missouri that has electric buses and had conversations with its superintendent about the pros and cons.

"They are working out great," he said. "I can't wait to see what happens over the next three or four years."

Posted: Feb 9, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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