Vice President Kamala Harris greets local families during her tour of electric buses at Meridian High School in Falls Church, Va., on Friday. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
May 20 (UPI) -- Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday announced $500 million in Environmental Protection Agency funds for zero-emission school buses.
The funds were secured through the administration of President Joe Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law and allow for school districts and eligible school bus operators to replace their buses.
Harris made the announcement at Meridian High School in Falls Church, Va., accompanied by EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Mitch Landrieu, the White House infrastructure coordinator, Patch reported.
"Yellow school buses are our nation's largest form of mass transit," Harris said.
"Everyday in our country, more than 25 million children ride to and from school on our nation's fleet of school buses. And 95% of our nearly 500,000 school buses run on diesel fuel."
Harris said that the electric school buses will help cut down on diesel exhaust and greenhouse gas emissions as well as the "diesel smell."
The EPA said in a press release also announcing the Clean School Bus Program that diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other health problems "that hurt our communities and cause students to miss school."
Zero-emission buses cost less for school districts to operate than diesel buses, according to the EPA.
The $500 million in funds mark the first round of funding for the Clean School Bus Program, which will dole out $5 billion in the next five years. The program started accepting applications Friday.
The EPA noted that the bipartisan infrastructure law will allow the federal agency to prioritize applications to replace buses serving "high-need local education agencies" as well as tribal schools and rural communities.
"This approach supports President Biden's Justice40 initiative to direct at least 40% of the benefits of certain government investments to underserved communities," the agency said.
"EPA's Clean School Bus Program will strive to meet this commitment and advance environmental justice and equity considerations into all aspects of our work."
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about reproductive rights as she virtually meets with abortion providers in the South Auditorium on Thursday. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo