(TRENTON) – With the goal to further New Jersey’s transition to clean energy, the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee on Wednesday approved a bill to create a three-year pilot program to explore replacing diesel-powered school buses with electric school buses for the daily transportation of students.
The measure (A-1971) would require the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, to develop and implement the “Electric School Bus Pilot Program.”
The goal of the program would be to determine the operational reliability and cost effectiveness of switching to electric school buses.
“Investing in electric school buses and clean energy is cost effective and will support healthy lives for our children,” said Assemblyman Sterley Stanley (D-Middlesex), prime sponsor of the legislation. “This program can help us save money in the long term, mitigate the effects of toxic fumes on our children, and help save the only planet we call home.”
The BPU would select at least three school districts from the north, central and southern regions of the state to participate in the pilot program. Each district would be awarded grants of up to $10 million to purchase electric school buses and charging infrastructure.
The participating school districts would be required to send periodic reports to the BPU detailing the costs of operating electric school buses and any reliability issues.
The legislation is also sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway and Robert Karabinchak.
“Aside from the cost of purchasing diesel fuel and the dangers of emitting toxicity into the air, the fumes our current buses release can be incredibly detrimental to a child’s health,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “Children with asthma and other respiratory illnesses who spend hours on school buses over the course of their educational lives are especially at risk. This bill would help protect the health of our children.”
“Someday in the not-so-distant future, an overwhelming majority of New Jersey students will ride to school in electric-powered vehicles. We must start preparing for that future now,” said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “Transitioning our schools to utilizing electric school buses is an important step in New Jersey’s path to a more sustainable tomorrow.”
The BPU would be required to submit a report to the Governor and Legislature within six months of the program’s completion.
The measure now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further review.