On Thursday September 14, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3 celebrated the first electric school bus delivered to Wirt County Schools through the Agency’s 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate Program. The District (in partnership with Matheny Motor) was one of three (3) West Virginia schools benefitting from the 2022 EPA Clean School Bus Rebate competition under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Attendees included EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz, officials from Wirt County Schools, Matheny Motors (rebate recipient), the Town of Elizabeth, Moms Clean Air Force, WV Department of Education, Thomas Built Bus, WV Department of Environmental Protection, and representatives from the offices of Senators Manchin and Capito. Hundreds of Wirt County School District students, including the school marching band and cheerleading squad, also attended the celebration.
“EPA’s job is to help give communities a boost. Our grant making budget has grown in just the two years that I’ve been here, from $400 million to $1.2 billion. That’s money that we invest back into communities and places that are trying to be cleaner and greener, like Wirt County,” said Adam Ortiz, EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator. “I’m so pleased to honor West Virginia and to honor Wirt County Schools, who are the tip of the spear in the state for getting an electric school bus.”
In total, West Virginia school districts received nearly $2 million in funding to purchase five (5) electric school buses. Additionally, 30 school districts throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. will benefit from the over $92 million in funding to replace 247 older diesel buses with new cleaner school buses through the Clean School Bus Rebate program.
“The nearly $400,000 investment we celebrate today signifies a major step towards cleaner, more reliable transportation for our schools,” said Brian Aluise, Outreach Manager, on behalf of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). “The implementation of new, reduced emissions vehicles solidifies that our state education system is well on its way to providing better, cutting-edge resources for our children,”
“The Clean School Bus program was funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and I was proud to witness the signing into law this important piece of legislation,” said Jessicah Cross, Field Representative, on behalf of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV.). “This historic bipartisan legislation is delivering transformative wins for West Virginia, which we are seeing here today.”
Grid infrastructure to support electric school buses is critical to the ongoing success of electric vehicle programs and infrastructure is currently being built out across the region. In addition to the $375,000 awarded for the procurement of the electric bus, EPA also awarded Matheny Motors/Wirt County School District $20,000 directed towards investments in charging infrastructure.
“When Matheny Motors started 101 years ago, we started by selling farm equipment and then, 100 years later, now it’s an electric bus that we’re selling. It’s just a great product,” said Tim Matheny, President of Matheny Motor Truck Company.
“In spite of the considerable benefits of electric school buses, some school districts are still hesitant about making the switch from diesel to electric, so we are so proud to see Wirt County Schools embracing new technology that can involve growing pains and questions, like how to pay for new buses,” said Lucia Valentine, Field Organizer at Moms Clean Air Force. “Electric school buses cost 60% less to operate and maintain as there are fewer moving parts in electric buses, so there are fewer repairs needed. Plus, there are government and utility plans to continue to help fund these new buses across the state.”
The first phase of the funding, the Clean School Bus Rebate Program, opened on May 20, 2022, and closed on August 19, 2022. Given overwhelming demand from school districts across the country, including in low-income communities, tribal nations, and territories, EPA nearly doubled the amount of funding that was awarded to $965 million. The Clean School Bus Rebate Award Winners were announced October 28, 2022.
“This addition to our fleet will provide a unique opportunity for education and new experiences for all of our transportation staff, while directly contributing to healthy air for school bus passengers,” said Bobbi Moore, Mayor of the Town of Elizabeth.
“With our current traditional school buses, students can unknowingly be exposed to toxic pollutants. These same pollutants can add to climate change and create a polluted environment for students, bus drivers, and community residents. Thanks to EPA’s Clean School Bus program, we are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and even create more job opportunities for students who will be entering the workforce,” said Sophie Owan, ninth grade student at Wirt County High School.
“Our goal within the Department of Transportation is to provide safe and efficient transportation for our students and this is the next step,” said Dave Baber, Director of School Transportation for WV Department of Education.
“It’s not often that little Wirt County finds itself at the focus of this much attention,” said John McKown, Superintendent of the Wirt County School District. “Today is the culmination of the work of many individuals that have made this grant and today’s commissioning of our new Thomas electric school bus possible. We’re excited to add this bus to our fleet.”
EPA anticipates announcing the next round of Clean School Bus Rebates this fall. The second phase of the funding, EPA’s Clean School Bus Grant Competition, recently closed on August 22, 2023, and the Agency expects to announce the competition selectees from the $400 million Clean School Bus Grant Competition later this year.
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