American Lung Association in Georgia and Mothers & Others For Clean Air Hold Virtual Roundtable with Senator Warnock’s Office and Local Advocates on Federal Funding for Zero-Emission School Buses

Speakers discussed benefits of transitioning the state's school buses from diesel to electric for Georgia kids’ health

On Friday, October 8, the American Lung Association in Georgia and Mothers & Others For Clean Air held a virtual roundtable with Senator Warnock’s office and local advocates to discuss the importance of securing federal infrastructure funding for zero-emission school buses.

During the event, speakers discussed the status of federal legislation and infrastructure funding for zero-emission school buses, the cost savings to school districts of making this transition, and the high level of support amongst Georgia voters for adopting electric school buses. Health advocates also drew attention to the benefits of zero-emission school buses for children’s health, as well as the disproportionate impact of diesel bus pollution on communities of color and low-income communities.

Speakers at the roundtable included:

  • Georgia State Representative Teri Anulewicz (District 42)
  • Dr. Anne Mellinger-Birdsong, Medical Education Advisor with Mothers & Others For Clean Air
  • June Deen, Senior Director of Advocacy, American Lung Association in Georgia
  • Anne Blair, Senior EV Policy Manager, Electrification Coalition
  • Mara Stark-Alcalá, Senior Transportation Policy Advisor, Office of U.S. Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock

The roundtable was moderated by Emil Moffatt, reporter at WABE 90.1 FM, Atlanta’s NPR station.

Select quotes from the speakers are listed below. To arrange interviews with any of the speakers, please contact [email protected].

JUNE DEEN (Senior Director of Advocacy, American Lung Association in Georgia): “One thing that the [Georgia] State of the Air report did provide this year is a glimpse into how communities of color and low-income communities are impacted by air pollution. We found that in our grading system, that 61% of people in communities of color are more likely to live in counties with higher rates of air pollution...we're glad to hear that Senator Warnock and Senator Ossoff are making that a priority, that when we make improvements in our infrastructure, and switch to electrification and cleaning up the air, that those communities will get the benefit of that.”

Dr. ANNE MELLINGER-BIRDSONG (Medical Education Advisor with Mothers & Others For Clean Air): “We know that particulate pollution, which is what diesel buses make, stunts children's lung growth when they're teenagers. We tend to think of teenagers as being almost adults. But in addition to them getting a big growth spurt in height, their ribs grow, and the lungs expand at the same rate, because their whole body is growing. And so kids who grow up in polluted areas breathe more particulates and have smaller lungs when they're 18 than kids who grew up in clean areas, and that sets them up for a lifetime of health problems.”

MARA STARK-ALCALÁ (Senior Transportation Policy Advisor, Office of U.S. Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock): [The funding for electric school buses in the bipartisan infrastructure package] “prioritizes low-income communities, rural communities, and tribal communities -- making sure that, most importantly, communities of color, and other disadvantaged communities are able to access the benefits of zero emission school of the [investments] Senator Warnock is most proud of, and we feel like really resonates with Georgians, is this new clean school bus program -- not only because of all the important health benefits that come along with that, but also [because] we have one of the best -- in my mind -- school bus manufacturers located in Georgia. Not only is [this funding] helping kids, but it's also providing jobs and economic development in a part of Georgia that needs it.”

GEORGIA STATE REP. TERI ANULEWICZ (District 42): “The fiscal benefits of this package are actually pretty significant...One of the things I really like about this federal program is that it includes and anticipates these expenses for these local districts. So this isn't just giving a district money to buy a school bus…This is actually giving districts, through these grants, the funds to help support the labor costs that they're going to incur to transition their fleet system. It gives them the funds for all of the planning, training their staff, all of those things are included. And I think that's important to note, because this really is a very comprehensive approach to make sure that these districts can not only purchase these electric school buses, but again, incorporate them into their fleet programs, because the ultimate goal is to transition out 1/5 of the nation's school bus fleet from diesel to electric. That's significant. There are costs that these districts would need to incur, and I really appreciate that this program anticipates that.”

ANNE BLAIR (Senior EV Policy Manager, Electrification Coalition): “Analysts today predict that light duty electric vehicles will be at price parity with conventional vehicles by 2025, if not sooner, and then the medium and heavy duty, of which school buses are a part of, will be at price parity just a few years after that…but because electric school buses currently cost more than your traditional diesel school buses, the big question is, how will we pay for them? While there are savings across the lifespan of the bus, the higher upfront cost can really be a deterrent...Ninety-five percent of the buses still on the road are diesel. So we need robust funding to help get at that additional percentage of vehicles that are not yet electric. So that's why we're so excited that there's been the leadership from our senators for an expanded program, but we need a lot more to get to equity and ensure that everybody gets the opportunity to ride on a cleaner bus.

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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