School districts in Florida’s most polluted and populous regions are eligible to share $57 million to replace diesel-fueled school buses with clean-running electric ones, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday.
The “Air Quality Priority Areas” that are eligible to apply for the money are urbanized parts of Miami-Broward-Palm Beach, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Pensacola.
Unlike in some states, DEP says specifically that Florida’s funds are “intended” to pay 75 percent of the cost of Type C and Type D electric school buses to replace comparable diesel buses.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group said last spring many states had spent or plan to spend their VW settlement funds to replace old diesel buses with less-polluting diesel buses, rather than replacing all diesel with electric.
According to School Bus Fleet, a trade publication, electric school buses cost about three times as much as diesel buses up front but provide long-term fuel savings and lower maintenance costs.
Communities such as Beverly, Mass., and Columbus, Ind., have just begun buying electric school buses, not only to reduce greenhouse gases that accumulate in the environment and cause climate change but also to reduce diesel exhaust emissions that foul the local air.
The funds for the electric buses come from $166 million that Florida was awarded in 2018 in a settlement agreement between the federal government and Volkswagen.
Volkswagen, its Audi brands and Porsche were caught cheating on vehicle emissions tests and deceiving 11 million customers about their “Clean Diesel” vehicles’ impacts on air quality. Facing charges of violating the U.S. Clean Air Act, VW settled by agreeing to pay up billions nationwide on clean-air projects.
The Federal Trade Commission’s final report on consumer compensation says the carmakers paid out nearly $10 billion, according to the July 27 court record.
Earlier this month, the Department of Environmental Protection awarded $25 million of Florida’s VW settlement funds for installation of electric-vehicle charging stations located along some of Florida’s busiest interstate corridors: I‐95, I‐295, I‐75, I‐275, and I‐4.
Another $25 million was earmarked for grants to reduce diesel emissions from sources such as marine vessels.