Trenton – Gov. Murphy signed the electric school bus bill S759 (Diegnan/Greenstein)/A1282 (Stanley/Haider/Timberlake) into law today, which provides a down payment on jump starting the electrification of the state’s bus fleet through providing funding to six different school districts a year over the next three years. The NJ Senate Budget Committee passed S759 on June 16, 2022 by a 23-15 vote. The NJ Assembly passed the legislation (A1282) by a 47-31-1 vote on May 26.
“This generation of kids should be the last generation that gets a toxic daily dose of diesel fumes on the way to school every morning. More than 15 years ago, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot question to clean up dirty diesel school buses. Back then, we didn’t have any other option. Today, states around the country are leading the way to make the transition to electric school buses. Diesel emissions seep into the cabin of existing school buses and into the lungs of our children. It’s time to protect our kids’ health and our air quality by taking this first step to electrification. This is a down payment on jumpstarting school bus electrification across the state. We thank Gov. Murphy for signing this legislation and for the legislative leadership of Sen. Patrick Diegnan and Asm. Sterley Stanley,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey.
The bill requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to develop and implement a three-year “Electric School Bus Program.” The legislation provides for $15 million annually to NJDEP to provide grants to 18 different school districts, with half the projects focused on overburdened communities. These grants will help determine the most economical and practical way to transition all of New Jersey’s diesel school bus fleet to electric vehicles over the next decade.
“We thank Gov. Murphy for prioritizing our kid’s health and our environment by jumpstarting the electrification of our state's school bus fleet. Children are among the most vulnerable to health impacts from air pollution caused by diesel emissions, and as a mother, it gives me great relief to know that my son will be able to ride in a school bus with zero emissions. Not only will this transition from diesel to electric reduce air pollution and protect our kids’ health, it will also provide an economic benefit to school districts,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, New Jersey Chapter Director of the Sierra Club. “Thank you to the bill sponsors, Assemblyman Stanley and Senator Diegnan, for supporting this important piece of legislation and for leading the way to a cleaner and greener NJ.”
The legislation had a broad set of support from more than 30 organizations throughout the legislation process, from labor, education, faith, community, public health, environmental, environmental justice organizations & school bus contractors, including the support of close to 300 public health professionals.
“New Jersey’s students are ready to move into the future on zero-emissions school buses. It’s especially critical that communities that bear the burden of the cumulative impacts of air pollution from heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses, along with other environmental and climate risks, are the first to make this necessary transition away from diesel burning buses. We are grateful to Assemblywoman Timberlake for her leadership on this bill and are excited to see it past the finish line with Governor Murphy’s signature,” said Melissa Miles, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.
Electric school buses have no tailpipe emissions, so they provide a clean ride to school without diesel fumes infiltrating the bus cabin and the lungs of our school bus drivers and children. A 2019 study conducted by researchers from Georgia State University showed that diesel pollution from school buses had a significant negative impact on children’s aerobic capacity and even their academic performance, such as lower test scores. This is especially crucial in environmental justice communities, which already suffer from the cumulative impacts of degraded air quality. The legislation designates half the projects would go to overburdened communities.
Because electric school buses don’t have tailpipe emissions, they reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the entire country’s fleet of school buses were replaced with electric alternatives, we could prevent about 5.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. It is critical to note that electric school buses reduce emissions versus diesel tailpipe emissions, even with the need to plug them into the electrical grid, and the benefits for New Jersey and our regional PJM electric grid are more substantial than other regions.
Electric school buses have a lower total cost of ownership than diesel buses due to lower fuel and maintenance costs, and vehicle-to-grid capabilities. A study from the University of Delaware estimates that a school district could save up to $230,000 per bus by switching to electric buses.
“We look forward to working with NJDEP to fast track the implementation of this legislation so that the $15 million in grants for school districts can be awarded by the end of this year. There is a clear demand from school districts to electrify their school bus fleets and this bill can start to meet that demand,” said Bill Beren, Transportation Chair with the NJ Sierra Club.
Electrifying the state’s fleet of diesel-powered school buses is also a critical step in Gov. Murphy’s climate action plans, both through the goals of the Energy Master Plan to reduce pollutants from the transportation sector as well as the commitments on electrification for medium to heavy duty diesel trucks. The goal of this legislation is to flag institutional, operational or policy issues that will need to be addressed so we can scale up the replacement of diesel school buses in the next decade.
“Pollution from the tailpipe emissions of heavy-duty diesel vehicles should be a thing of the past because the technology already exists to move us into a zero-emissions reality. Children should not bear the health burden of our inaction any longer. I am excited to see what this important bill will make possible for the students of our state,” said Lori Caughman, Esq., New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.
The Sierra Club is not only the nation's oldest and largest environmental group, but one of the most influential when it comes to making political endorsements. The New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club has close to over 80,000 members and supporters in New Jersey and 3.8 million members nationwide.