The Bulletin

More electric school buses headed to some Virginia counties

By: - November 17, 2021 3:39 pm

A Washington County, Va. electric school bus. (Appalachian Power Company)

More electric school buses are headed to some central and southwest Virginia counties courtesy of funding from a 2007 clean air settlement between Appalachian Power’s parent company and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Appalachian Power announced this week that it has awarded $2.1 million in grants to help Amherst, Campbell, Montgomery, Bedford and Washington county schools purchase a total of nine electric school buses. 

Each district was eligible for $250,000 to replace a conventional diesel bus with an electric one, as well as $4,175 for charging equipment and installation costs. 

The utility said an additional $300,000 remains available for districts in its Virginia and West Virginia service territory. 

Funding for the buses comes from a landmark settlement EPA struck with American Electric Power, Appalachian Power’s parent company, in 2007 over air pollution from 16 coal-fired power plants operated by AEP across five states. The case was one of a series of actions EPA took against power companies to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. 

EPA estimated at the time that compliance with the agreement would cost AEP more than $4.6 billion and would result in one of the largest emissions decreases ever achieved by a federal settlement. 

A 2020 modification to the agreement extended an existing provision requiring AEP to reduce emissions from mobile sources. The modified agreement called for AEP to “facilitate the replacement of existing public school and transit buses with new, more energy-efficient buses and thereby reduce emissions” of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. 

Electric school buses have slowly begun replacing traditional diesel buses around Virginia, despite narrow defeats of proposals over the past two legislative sessions to authorize a Dominion Energy-led electric school bus program. Replacements are almost certain to accelerate, however, with the passage of President Joseph Biden’s infrastructure package, which will make available $2.5 billion for zero-emission school buses and an additional $2.5 billion that can also go toward school buses that use “alternative” fuels like propane.

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists.