A bill proposed by Representative Steve Handy (Republican – Layton) that would provide funding to replace “dirty diesel” school buses with environmentally friendly buses was unanimously passed out of the House Transportation Committee with a favorable recommendation Thursday afternoon.
Under HB 49 – Clean Fuel School Buses and Infrastructure, which was substituted to include additional fuel options, the State Board of Education would be allowed to award grants to school districts to replace aging, fuel-inefficient school buses that were manufactured prior to 2002. The new buses would be equipped with alternative or “clean” diesel fuel.
Handy believes that this is not only a transportation initiative, but also a clean air initiative. “I think every one of us has been behind a school bus and you see it spewing dirty black air. That’s what we’re talking about, but it’s what you can’t see that’s even more dangerous.”
The school districts would also have to match 50 percent of the funding and the total price tag for the program would be a one-time cost of $20 million. The bill would also provide funding for the remodeling of a bus shop to a accommodate alternative fuel vehicles.
Handy estimated that approximately 170 buses could be replaced. “What this [bill] would do is set in place a public policy directive and then as things roll forward and buses are replaced, the infrastructure is in place and the tendency will be to move to alternative fuel buses.”
Murrell Martin, transportation specialist at the Utah State Office of Education, sees HB 49 as an opportunity to replace aging buses and expand flexibility of fuel types across the state. “We well beyond the typical rotation of buses. A lot of states are looking at 12 to 15 year maximums. In the state of Utah, we have buses that are more closely in the range of 20 to 30 years in age of fleet.”
Handy proposed the bill last year, but it died on the Senate floor during the final hours of the legislative session.
Tom Nedreberg, vice president of Utah Educators Association, expressed his support for the bill. “We appreciate what it does for the safety of our kids and the cleanliness of our environment.”
Ingrid Griffee, executive director of Utah Moms for Clean Air, hopes that the bill will pass this session. “This is going to make a big difference to not only the outdoor air quality in our urban areas, but it will also make a big difference to the indoor air quality on the buses that the children ride in sometimes for a substantial amount of time to get to school.”