The South Coast Air Quality Management District awarded $32.9 million to Southern California school districts on Friday to help them purchase clean-burning buses to replace older diesel school buses in their fleets. The AQMD also awarded $1.3 million to enable districts to retrofit their diesel school buses with particulate matter traps that reduce diesel emissions.
The recent award delivers funding to more than 30 public school districts and private school bus carriers in the Southland to replace 193 pre-1994 diesel school buses with cleaner-burning compressed natural gas or propane autogas buses, retrofit 66 diesel buses with PM traps and install proper fueling infrastructure.
“This will help protect the health of our children, their families and their communities,” said William A. Burke, Ed.D., chairman of AQMD’s Governing Board. “Cleaning up school bus fleets continues to be a top priority, and [this] funding helps us stay on track with that goal.”
Alternative-fueled buses are substantially cleaner than older diesel buses, and they emit no diesel soot, which is the source of about 84 percent of all air pollution cancer risk in the region. Fueling with propane autogas results in an estimated 80 percent reduction in smog-forming hydrocarbon emissions in buses when compared with diesel. This helps reduce harmful short- and long-term health effects in passengers and contributes to cleaner air, according to the Propane Education & Research Council.
All of the major school bus OEMs are warming up to alternative-powered school buses, whether propane, CNG, hybrid or fully electric. Thomas Built Buses announced at the recent NAPT Summit in Memphis, Tenn., that it would add two more alternative-fuel school buses to its “green” family: the CNG-fueled Saf-T-Liner C2, due out in 2015, and the propane-powered Minotour already in production.
When used as transportation fuel, natural gas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 to 23 percent and 26 to 29 percent compared with diesel and gasoline-fueled vehicles, respectively, according to the California Air Resources Board. NGVAmerica reports that switching to natural gas displaces an average of 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel per bus per year, and using NG vehicles in other school vehicles displaces even more.
The SCAQMD manages air pollution control for urban portions of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Since 2001, it has approved more than $210 million to replace 1,000-plus older diesel school buses with cleaner models and retrofit more than 3,000 newer diesel school buses with particulate traps. Funding for the latest awards comes from the state’s Carl Moyer Program and AQMD’s Lower-Emission School Bus fund. See the table below for specific school district allocations.