The Environmental Protection Agency awarded nearly $1 billion in rebates to 389 school districts across the country to electrify their school bus fleets.
Fort Worth ISD was not selected to receive funding, among the 64 Texas school districts that applied.
Only 13 Texas districts, including Dallas ISD and Houston ISD, will receive the rebates. Both school districts requested the maximum number of 25 school buses. Dallas ISD will receive $7.6 million in rebates, while Houston ISD will receive $6.2 million.
While Fort Worth ISD was not selected for the first round of rebates, it is on the waiting list and ready for future opportunities, said Joseph Coburn, Fort Worth ISD chief of operations.
“Fort Worth ISD did apply, seeking the full allotment of 25 electric school buses,” Coburn said. “The district believes in the future of electrifying the fleet as a means of both energy savings and sustainability.”
The 2022 funding for the Clean School Bus Program, passed as a part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021, is the first installment of $5 billion set to replace traditional school buses with low-emission and zero-emission models over the next five years, according to previous Fort Worth Report coverage.
The qualified districts were selected for the grants via a lottery system, Coburn said.
The EPA chose a lottery-style selection method to keep the process as fair as possible, make sure that money was going into every state and avoid one state monopolizing all of the money, said Jeff Robinson, the air permits, monitoring & grants branch manager in the EPA Region 6 air and radiation division. Region 6 includes Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and 65 Tribal Nations.
“We wanted to make sure we were funding electric buses in every single state,” Robinson said.
The next round of rebates will roll out in 2023 for the schools who did not receive funding in the first installment, Robinson said. Nearly $1 billion is expected to be allocated for the second round, but will be divided between rebates and grants.
The 2023 rebate program will roll out similar to the 2022 program, Robinson said. But the EPA will allocate some money toward project-style grants that specific school districts can apply to if they meet certain criteria.
The EPA will make a nationwide announcement when the second round of applications is open. School districts will have to resubmit applications for the 2023 rebate and grants programs.
About 2,000 school districts applied nationwide and only 389 were selected.
“The volume of applications across the country was incredibly significant. We got many more applications than money we could turn loose,” Robinson said. “We are hopeful and encourage school districts in Texas and in our region to keep applying for the funding.”
Originally, the EPA announced $500 million to be allocated to the Clean School Bus Program, but after overwhelming demand across the country, the EPA nearly doubled the amount of funding to $965 million.
Colin Leyden, the Texas political director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the clean bus fleets will save districts money on fuel and maintenance while improving air quality.
“If we’re going to act this decade to keep our planet livable, we need solutions on our streets today — and putting these zero-emission school buses on Texas roads brings us one step closer to turning the tide of the climate crisis,” Leyden said in a November statement. “That’s how we build a more vital, prosperous Texas for all of us.”
Izzy Acheson is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.