Climate advocates, lawmakers push for federal investment in electric school buses at event in VB

Local News

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Climate justice advocates and Virginia elected officials held a press conference Thursday in Virginia Beach calling for federal investments in clean transportation infrastructure such as electric buses.

Local Delegate Nancy Guy (D-Virginia Beach) joined State Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and other members of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Moms Clean Air Force and Mothers Out Front at Croc’s 19th Street Bistro at the Oceanfront.

Supporters say investments in clean transportation are crucial to meeting climate goals, reducing air pollution and more, as transportation accounts for nearly a third of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

“If every school district in the country electrified their school bus fleet, it would take 11.5 million tons of CO2 out of the environment every single year. So, it is important,” said Del. Guy.

Proposals to tackle the climate crisis have strong support among voters, with about two-thirds (65%) of Americans saying the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, according to research from the Pew Research Center. 60% view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States.

Virginia Beach public officials say the city is one of the most threatened localities from climate change and need to take a small step towards healing the environment.

“The beach may not be the same way,” said Tax Commissioner Philip Kellam. “The flooding we experience may not be the same. It may be more drastic if we don’t stand together as a community and do something about it.”

The group highlighted electric buses that are already being operated by Hampton Roads Transit, which HRT says have zero CO2 tailpipe emissions and reduce energy costs by 75% vs. diesel buses.

10 On Your Side took a look at the electric school bus, which looks pretty normal from the outside.

It looks completely different, however, under the hood – mainly because there’s no engine.

A set of batteries underneath it powers the bus for up to 120 miles.

Albert Burleigh from the Blue Bird Corporation say the push for federal incentives could encourage districts to purchase them.

“Not saying that any type of grant assistance or federal assistance is going to be necessary forever, certainly not,” he said. “But for right now, I think to make it more viable for a school district to purchase, it does help upset some of those upfront costs.”

City leaders say it’s about setting an example and finding a way to do it efficiently.

“Quite honestly, we have to have foresight. We can’t just think about next week, next quarter, next school year. We have to plan ahead,” said Kellam.

These all electric buses do cost more than the fuel powered buses, but manufacturers say the long-term maintenance costs of these buses are cheaper in the long run.

The event comes as lawmakers in Washington continue to finalize infrastructure spending. Democrats have proposed a $3.5 trillion infrastructure package, and centrist lawmakers such as Virginia Sen. Mark Warner are negotiating a $1.2 bipartisan infrastructure bill.

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