Chairs Rodgers & Johnson to EPA: “Stop Forcing Your Rush-to-Green Mandates on our School Districts”

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Environment, Manufacturing, & Critical Materials Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson (R-OH) sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan demanding answers for why the administration is using Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds to mandate that school districts buy electric buses instead of other more affordable, clean, and efficient alternatives. 

They wrote: “The EPA and the federal government at large should support local school districts’ efforts to increase the efficiency of their bus fleets, not mandate what types of school buses should be on roads across America.” 

Additional excerpts and highlights from the letter regarding the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program: 

WASTE AND ABUSE: "As EPA prepares to distribute program funding for fiscal year 2023, it is imperative that the Agency ensures that American taxpayer dollars are being used effectively and in alignment with congressional intent.”  

EPA IGNORES LEGISLATIVE INTENT, FAVORS ELECTRIC: EPA’s report on the Clean School Bus Program sends conflicting messages to Congress. EPA admits, ‘[u]nder the statutory design for this program, half of the CSB Program’s available funding of $5 billion is dedicated for zero-emission school buses and half is for clean school buses.’ Given that logic, 50% of awards should have been given to zero-emission school buses and the other 50% of awards should have been given to clean school buses that do not fall under the zero-emission school buses category.” 

EPA WATCHDOG SOUNDS THE ALARM: “In addition, EPA’s Inspector General testified during the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations’ hearing titled, ‘Follow the Money: Oversight of President Biden’s Massive Spending Spree,’ voicing concerns over the Clean School Bus Program. Specifically, Inspector General Sean O’Donnell emphasized that the Clean School Bus Program ‘will create demand for electric school buses that, based on current supply limitations, will far exceed supply, placing the associated funds at risk of not being properly expended.’ Furthermore, O’Donnell stressed that the program was at high risk for waste, fraud, and abuse.”  

EPA PICKING WINNERS AND LOSERS: “EPA’s rush to ‘making electric school buses the American standard’ ignores the benefits of clean school buses. None of the electric buses are truly zero-emission vehicles when considering a full lifecycle analysis that includes the emissions to manufacture and charge electric buses. In terms of environmental benefits, CNG buses can reduce tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to gasoline-fueled buses, according to the EPA. In terms of efficiency for bus drivers, CNG buses can be refueled at a public station in the ‘same amount of time it takes to refuel a gasoline vehicle,’ whereas an electric school bus takes six to eight hours to fully charge.

“Along the same lines, the Department of Energy (DOE) highlighted the air quality and cost savings benefits of propane buses through a case study of public schools in Oak Harbor, Washington. Oak Harbor Public Schools planned to convert its full fleet of school buses to propane by 2029, which was estimated to save the district more than $35,000 per year in fueling costs and $700 or more in maintenance costs. The local Transportation Director commented that the switch to propane buses was motivated by a ‘goal to replace all my buses with cleaner, efficient options and, most of all, reduce our carbon footprint.’” 

E&C Republicans asked Administrator Regan to answer the following questions by May 4, 2023: 

  1. Will you commit to awarding 50% of the grants or rebates to clean school buses and the other 50% of grants and rebates to electric school buses as required under the IIJA?  
  2. How does the EPA plan to increase the number of awards for clean school buses fueled by CNG and propane as opposed to electric school buses?  
  3. Will the EPA increase the maximum rebate amount per replacement school bus for CNG and propane buses?  
  4. When will the EPA issue the Request for Applications for Clean School Bus grant funding for fiscal year 2023?  
  5. Will the EPA incorporate cost share considerations for the fiscal year 2023 grant and rebate competitions? 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter.