Battleground state Pennsylvania gets first electric school buses funded by Biden admin

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Pennsylvania received its first electric school buses funded by the Biden administration on Thursday, an effort in the critical battleground state that is expected to highlight the president’s climate agenda.
First Student, which is the leading school transportation provider in North America, is set to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday in Harrisburg, Pa. The event will celebrate the deployment of the buses that are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program, which was included in the bipartisan infrastructure law.
The state received six new electric school buses that were manufactured by IC Bus Tulsa in Oklahoma, a shop with United Auto Worker laborers. The infrastructure law authorized $1 billion to the EPA for this program for each fiscal year from 2022 through 2026, and the EPA then gave First Student $140 million.
Kevin Matthews, head of electrification at First Student, told The Hill that communities welcome the electric school buses, regardless of political affiliation, because they see the benefits of it.
“School buses are not red, they’re not blue. They’re yellow, and we all benefit when we make them greener. And, the parents like it because their kids are not going to be exposed to the emissions. The mayors see it as a reduction of emissions in his or her community, which is often their goal,” he said. “The school district likes to show that they’re cutting edge… and then our drivers like it from a performance standpoint and how they operate.”
“I think everybody sees the benefit of electrifying school buses,” he added. “School buses are in literally every community… it’s a real good place to start, figuring out issues for everybody.”
Matthews also spoke about the benefits of electrifying school buses, beyond climate impacts. He said that quieter buses can help with students behavior, because the students don’t yell over the diesel engine noise of the bus and in turn aren’t as animated, and said that students with special needs can also benefit from the quieter buses.
Additionally, improvements in behavioral issues among students could help with the current school bus driver shortage; student behavior is one reason that drivers quit, along with wages, he said.
First Student operates more than 330 electric school buses in North America. Other states that have received them so far include Oregon, California, Missouri, Illinois, Montana and Rhode Island. The buses are charged by First Student FlexCharge chargers that are stationed on campuses.
EPA’s Clean School Bus Program aims to provide school districts with clean or zero-emission school buses to help fight climate change and lessen the risks of cancer and asthma in young kids.
Biden’s campaigning has focused on Pennsylvania, which he won in 2020 and considers a second home to him after neighboring Delaware.
Biden is polling behind former President Trump, his likely GOP opponent in November’s election, in Pennsylvania by 0.4 percentage points, according to the Decision Desk HQ aggregation of polls. Biden campaigned throughout the state last week, making visits to Scranton and Pittsburgh.

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