The EPA grant will be used to update 20 buses that are more than 10 years old.
ORANGE COUNTY More than 500 schools applied for a grants through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s School Bus Rebate Program last year, and the Orange County Public Schools’ bus fleet was one of 88 - and one of only two in the state - selected to receive a grant.
The grants, which come from the EPA's Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, are earmarked to replace old buses or to retrofit older buses with new filter systems to reduce carbon emissions.
“Thanks to DERA funding, we are protecting our children from breathing diesel emissions as they travel to school,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “Nearly 17,000 of our country's schools are located within steps of a heavily traveled road, potentially exposing more than six million children to traffic-related pollution at a time when their developing lungs are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution.”
OCPS received $240,000 from the EPA, and, on Jan. 24, the Orange County School Board approved the use of $200,000 of the grant to purchase 10 new Thomas Built buses and the remaining $40,000 to purchase 10 particulate filters for older buses’ exhaust systems.
This is the first time the district has received this grant from the EPA despite applying every year since 2012. The EPA grant is awarded on a lottery basis to school systems that have buses in its fleet that are more than 10 years old. According to OCPS’s Transportation Services Department, the bus fleet contains 1,119 buses and the entire fleet is supposed to be replaced every ten years.
But it seems the department is playing catchup.
The 10 buses that will be replaced through the EPA’s grant are model year 2005, and the other 10 buses that will receive a new ventilation system must be a 2006 year model or older, per the EPA grant requirements.
For fiscal year 2017, OCPS purchased 109 new buses - 89 of those are conventional buses at $108,326 each and another 20 are wheelchair life buses at $114,061 each. So far, 70 of those have been delivered and put on the roads.
When the department received word that they had been awarded the $240,000 grant, they were enthusiastic.
“The buses will run 90% cleaner given the improvements in engine technology in the past 10 years,” the Transportation Services Department said in an emailed statement. “(It’s) a direct benefit on the students who ride our buses by greatly improving emissions, (and) further improvements to the community’s air quality.”
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].