EPA School Bus Funding Expected to Promote Clean Diesel Tech

The Diesel Technology Forum (DTF) says that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds for cleaner school buses, as previously announced, will enable significant air quality improvements by replacing older diesel buses with newer, more efficient technology – primarily, advanced clean diesel technology.

“These funds will enable school districts to acquire the most advanced, reliable and efficient technology that will deliver kids to school in clean air and energy-saving style,” says Allen Schaeffer, the DTF’s executive director. “We expect that, like in previous years, over 90 percent of these transit agencies will choose clean diesel over other fuel types.

“School transportation officials recognize that new technology diesels not only are more reliable and available than alternative fuels, but that they also have low emissions and cost far less, helping keep more school funds in the classrooms than on the parking lots.

“New clean diesel buses have advanced to the point that they have reduced NOx and particulate matter emissions by as much as 95 percent compared to the older buses they will replace,” Schaeffer says.

The rebate program is a component of the DERA that helps eligible school districts and school transportation providers defray the cost of scrapping older buses and purchase new clean vehicles. As reported, the rebate program provides up to $25,000 to replace the largest school buses. Rebate funding provides only a share of the total cost of a new school bus purchase.

According to the DTF, the program is enormously popular, as applicants requested $44 million in funding assistance for only $7.7 million in available funding.

More than 73,000 older diesel-powered engines have been upgraded or replaced between 2008 and 2013 because of DERA funding, according to a 2016 EPA report, “Third Report to Congress: Highlights from the Diesel Emission Reduction Program.”

“DERA has been a true environmental success story,” Schaeffer says. “DERA has a proven track record of reducing emissions and improving air quality in all 50 states. According to EPA, DERA delivers a $13:1 return on investment, and often, the return is even higher when considering matching funds at a rate of 2-or-3 to 1 that further enhance the investments.

“And nowhere has the effectiveness of DERA [been] more pronounced than [with] the school bus rebate program,” says Schaeffer. “Interested school bus operators are provided just enough incentive funding to scrap and replace older buses as opposed to selling that older bus on the secondary market.”

Since its creation in 2005, the DERA has been supported by a bipartisan coalition of several hundred environmental and public health organizations; industry representatives; and state and local government associations, including the American Lung Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists and National School Transportation Association. These groups continue to work together in educating Congress about these benefits and the importance of continued funding for the program.

Schaeffer says diesel power systems have undergone revolutionary technological advancements that have already achieved dramatic reductions in emissions for urban buses and highway engines. Advances in emissions-control systems and ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, biodiesel, and renewable diesel are helping clean diesel engines achieve emissions performance equivalent to compressed natural gas (CNG) and other alternatives but without the costs and limitations of these technologies.

“Today, meeting EPA’s clean air regulations means that engine manufacturers have virtually eliminated emissions by utilizing state-of-the-art particulate filters and advanced selective catalytic reduction technology to cut smog-forming emissions to near-zero levels,” Schaeffer says.

Schaeffer notes that an analysis by the Clean Air Task Force illustrated the major emissions gains clean diesel buses have achieved. The analysis shows the air quality benefits of replacing older buses with newer clean diesel technology and a comparison of clean diesel and CNG buses.

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