As in most states, Virginia’s public school buses are run on diesel fuels that produce carcinogens like Benzene and particulate matter (PM 2.5) which increase the risk of asthma and heart disease. Studies have found these toxins are present up to six times higher inside a diesel school bus, thereby exposing our youngest citizens to serious health issues. Among children ages 5-17, asthma is one of the top causes of their missed school days. Additionally, the transportation sector is responsible for 48% of Virginia’s carbon emissions and Virginia has the second-largest school bus fleet in the country. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that buses that operate on electric batteries have 67% lower life-cycle emissions than diesel, even when purchasing electricity from a utility.
My solution is to encourage local schools to convert to electric school buses using state incentives. To reduce both the health and climate aspects from the continued reliance on diesel school buses, I recently passed a bill to create the “Virginia Electric Vehicle Grant Program and Fund.” The new fund would support awarding competitive grants to local public schools to replace diesel school buses with electric versions, and to pay for the charging infrastructure, and for using labor-union trained workers to support maintenance. Based on the criteria of the Fund and Program, additional funds may support similar projects proposed by public, private, or nonprofit entities in Virginia to assist with replacing any commercial motor vehicle, heavy equipment, or other machinery that are used in Virginia that rely on diesel fuels with electric vehicles or equivalent equipment that reduce air emissions.