President Biden’s ambitious plans to accelerate the adoption of electric school buses in coming years is facing significant barriers, according to an inspector general report.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General’s audit determined that the agency’s Clean School Bus Program was largely dependent on utility companies’ ability to increase power supplies, according to its report published late last month. The program may also face significant delays, it added, without construction of additional charging stations.
“The Agency may be unable to effectively achieve program goals unless it can ensure that school districts will be able to establish the infrastructure necessary to support clean bus and charging purchases,” the EPA inspector general concluded. “There could be delays in utilities constructing the needed charging stations to make the buses fully operational in a timely manner.”
“While early coordination with utilities is not a requirement, it could prevent the Agency from achieving its objective to remove older diesel buses and replace them with clean buses,” the report continued. “The increased demand on manufacturers and utility companies may impact the timeliness of replacing diesel buses and ultimately may delay program health and environmental benefits.”
Entities interviewed by the inspector general’s office specifically expressed concern about the ability of utility providers to bring power lines and transformers to school districts with electric buses. While some power providers have experience with electric bus infrastructure, they said they had never built such infrastructure at scale.
Establishing charging stations and connecting them to the regional power grid could take as much as two years, according to the report. Additionally, bus charging stations that are expected to support more than 25 buses in larger school districts face other challenges since they require different technology.
“Clean bus charging sites that need to support 25 buses or more often require a different transformer and switch gear, which take a year to construct. A utility provider we interviewed explained that it is hard to find transformers in the United States and it has backlogged orders because of the high demand,” the report stated.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, the EPA said it reviewed the audit, but declined to comment on its specific findings.
“The OIG initiated this audit to determine whether potential supply chain or production delays could impact the EPA’s efforts to disburse and manage clean school bus program funds pursuant to section 71101 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” the agency said. “EPA thanks the OIG for the considerations outlined and notes, EPA does not have recommendations to address.”
The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program was created under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Biden signed into law in November 2021. The legislation provides $5 billion in federal grants through 2026 to replace existing diesel-powered school buses nationwide. The agency has projected the program will fund thousands of new electric school buses.
Under the first round of clean bus rebates under the program, EPA awarded a total of $965 million to 389 school districts across the country. The EPA announced the second round of funding, totaling at least $500 million, in September.
“Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, more students, teachers, and staff are breathing easier this school year as brand-new clean school buses are hitting the road in communities across America,”said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “We’ve seen incredible demand for this program from school districts that want to benefit from the transition to cleaner school buses, leading to cost savings for districts, better air quality, and less pollution.”
“Clean school buses mean clean air and a brighter future for our students,” added Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Clean air, tackling climate change, and cost savings is a win-win-win.”
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