South Carolina to receive $58M for electric school buses

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Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 7:09 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Over the next five years, $5 billion will be spread around the country to put more electric school buses on the road.

The federal government recently announced the first round of funding, totaling around $1 billion, and South Carolina schools will receive one of the biggest cuts: more than $58 million, going to 16 school districts.

South Carolina’s total is the third-highest among all states in the country.

“It really puts South Carolina at the forefront of this whole movement, and so again, we’re really excited to have been awarded the amount of funding that we were,” Mike Bullman, transportation director for the South Carolina Department of Education, said.

The following districts will receive a combined $58.4 million to purchase 148 electric buses and charging stations:

  • Abbeville 60: $3.16 million for four buses
  • Anderson 3: $1.58 million for four buses
  • Anderson 5: $4.74 million for 12 buses
  • Barnwell 45: $1.975 million for five buses
  • Chester 1: $3.16 million for eight buses
  • Dorchester 4: $3.16 million for eight buses
  • Fairfield 1: $3.16 million for eight buses
  • Georgetown 1: $6.32 million for 16 buses
  • Hampton: $3.16 million for eight buses
  • Jasper 1: $1.58 million for four buses
  • Laurens 56: $2.765 million for seven buses
  • Marion 10: $4.74 million for 12 buses
  • McCormick 1: $1.58 million for four buses
  • Orangeburg: $6.32 million for 16 buses
  • Richland 1: $6.32 million for 16 buses
  • Sumter 1: $4.74 million for 12 buses

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded this money through its Clean School Bus Program and received nearly $4 billion in requests for this first round of funding.

An automated system on a computer ranked school districts based on certain criteria, prioritizing lower-income and underserved districts, according to EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe.

Engines in traditional diesel buses give off diesel emissions, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide, breathed in by students and drivers. Those products are multiplied by the countless number of school buses across the country driving routes five days a week for most of the year.

“From a public health and a climate change perspective, it’s just kind of a no-brainer to move to cleaner transportation,” McCabe said.

South Carolina is the only state in the country in which its Department of Education owns and operates all of its school buses, as opposed to districts being in that role, according to Bullman.

He said under the state’s contract, the cost of an electric school bus is more than three times the cost of a traditional diesel bus.

The money from the EPA, coming in the form of a rebate, will cover the entire cost of the 148 electric buses, Bullman said.

“A much better environment for the student — it’s quieter, certainly cleaner, and all those things that go along with it, so again, we’re excited about the benefits it brings to the students,” he said.

The EPA hopes these buses will be on the road by next school year.

In the long run, they should save taxpayer dollars, the EPA and state Department of Education both attested.

“They have less maintenance,” McCabe said. “Over time, the costs are lower. They don’t have to deal with the price volatility of fuel. The price of fuel goes up and down, but the price of electricity is much more stable.”

The $5 billion for this program comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed last year.

About a third of South Carolina’s money is going to districts in the state’s 6th Congressional District, represented by Democrat Jim Clyburn.

“I am pleased to see how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is continuing to serve South Carolina in our pursuit to improve quality of life through infrastructure,” Clyburn said. “This funding will provide students with the reliable transportation they deserve while reducing climate pollution.”

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