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California Lawmakers Approve Move to Electric School Buses, Estimated Cost Over $5.5 Billion

California Lawmakers Approve Move to Electric School Buses, Estimated Cost Over $5.5 Billion

Children walk past a school bus in Monterey Park, Calif., on April 28, 2017. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Carol Cassis

Carol Cassis

9/19/2023

Updated: 9/20/2023

Gov. Gavin Newsom will soon be deciding on whether to approve funding to replace diesel-powered school buses with electric vehicles, after the California Legislature approved a measure on Sept. 14.
Assembly Bill 579, would mandate that any new school buses purchased in the state after January 2035 must be zero-emission vehicles.
The bill was introduced by Assembly Member Philip Ting (D-San Francisco) to further Mr. Newsom’s 2020 executive order requiring all medium-and heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks and buses, to be zero-emission by 2045.
The bill received a 63-11 vote in the Assembly with 11 abstentions and a 31-8 vote in the Senate, with one abstention.
Mr. Newsom now has until Oct. 14 to act on the bill either approving it without his signature, signing it, or vetoing it.
According to an Assembly analysis, the cost to replace the state’s entire diesel-fueled school fleet is estimated at over $5.5 billion.
Those in favor of the bill include the California Medical Association, the California Federation of Teachers, and nearly 40 other groups and coalitions.
“AB 579 will accelerate the transition to clean and safe school transportation, so all school districts statewide have the ability to reap significant public health, environmental, and economic benefits for their communities,” bill co-sponsor, Advanced Energy United,a political action group aimed at bolstering clean energy policies in the US, said in a statement of support. “Expanding electric school bus adoption over the next decade will free up funding for more school districts to put back into the classroom by substantially reducing maintenance and fuel costs by thousands of dollars annually.”
Those against the bill include the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators.
“AB 579 creates a statewide purchase mandate with no exceptions, no funding, and no assurances that zero-emission vehicles will even have the ability to drive the miles and routes necessary to transport students to school,” the Association of California School Administrators said in a statement of opposition. “Districts that are trying to transition to zero-emission vehicles are facing a myriad of issues including the inability to install vehicle chargers due to grid constraints, lack of replacement parts necessary for routine maintenance, and buses that do not have capacity to travel the distance needed to complete routes.”
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Carol Cassis

Carol Cassis

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California Insider
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