Buffalo, N.Y. – Today, Congressman Brian Higgins and New York State Senator Tim Kennedy joined labor, environment, and health groups at First Student Bus Company to call for federal funding for electric school buses in the Build Back Better Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. Communities across New York need this essential federal funding to deliver on climate action, create good-paying union jobs, and prioritize the health of children, bus drivers, and our environmental justice communities.
Watch the video here.
The Build Back Better Act and the infrastructure package will put the United States on the path towards a clean transportation future by helping to invest in electric buses. The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $5 billion for clean buses including $500 million each year for the next five years to fund thousands of new electric school buses. This transition is essential, especially in low-income communities and communities of color who are exposed to the most air pollution. This will also help to create thousands of good-paying, union jobs in the clean transportation field.
The New York League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, NYSPTA, Buffalo School District Superintendent, Earthjustice, Pediatrician Dr. Sarah Ventre, and Earthjustice joined Congressman Higgins and State Senator Kennedy.
“This is an investment in our future, which will not only help meet climate goals but will decrease the risk of children experiencing respiratory health issues from breathing in diesel exhaust,” said Congressman Higgins who serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Budget Committee. “Federal investments in clean transportation support good-paying, sustainable jobs, protect the environment, and support the most vulnerable members of our community.”
“Through the Climate Leadership And Community Protection Act, New York has enacted the most comprehensive and aggressive climate change legislation in the nation. This federal investment would only build upon the monumental progress we’ve made, and paired with real policy change to incentivize the transition of school bus fleets to electric, we would be underscoring our commitment to high quality transportation and a greener, environmentally-just New York,” said Senator Tim Kennedy, Chair of the New York State Senate’s Transportation Committee.
“We’re on the brink of passing the Build Back Better Act, a once-in-a-generation climate bill that will help New York and states nationwide fight for climate change, create green union jobs, and make critical investments in environmental justice communities. We have waited on the sidelines of the climate crisis for too long and we cannot let this opportunity for bold climate investments pass. We commend Representative Higgins and State Senator Kennedy for championing school bus electrification and other lynchpin climate actions at the State and Federal levels, putting the climate crisis, our children, and our environmental justice communities first. The New York League of Conservation Voters looks forward to working together to pass Build Back Better and securing essential funding for clean school buses in New York and in states nationwide,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
“There is no time left to act on climate. The transportation sector at large accounts for one third of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, blanketing our neighborhoods with toxic air pollution that harms children and public health and fuels the climate crisis. With the Build Back Better Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Congress can begin tackling this issue, while also creating good-paying union jobs, by investing federal funding into electric school busses. This win-win-win action will provide vital relief for low-income communities and communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by poor air quality,” said Jill Witkowski Heaps, Senior Attorney at Earthjustice. “We must do better for our nation’s children and the planet they will inherit, and investing in electric school buses is an essential building block to achieve this.”
“We have a unique opportunity in Buffalo to bring clean electric school buses to our neighborhoods. While it is unfortunate that we are a “disadvantaged community”, because we also live in a designated opportunity zone, NYSERDA can award the top amount of funding available to First Student for the Buffalo Public Schools from the NY Truck Voucher Incentive Program. This is only a beginning but one that is prescient both for the health of our community and the climate crises. True justice will be served if we act now and apply for this VW Settlement funding,” said Sara Schultz, Sierra Club Niagara Group Chair.
“As a pediatrician, I see the impact of children suffering from air pollution in Buffalo, and transportation is the largest source of this pollution. Because their lungs are still developing and they have higher breathing rates, children are more vulnerable to traffic pollution. Vehicle-pollution is especially harmful for children with asthma, who can have increased trouble breathing and result in more emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and school absences. The burden of our polluted air is also not distributed equally, often impacting communities of color the worst. For all of these reasons, I advocate for electric school buses,” said Sarah Ventre, MD, MPH.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill also includes $55 billion for water and sewer infrastructure, including federal funding to replace lead water lines further protecting the health and safety of children living in Western New York and older communities across the country.
The New York League of Conservation Voters is the only non-partisan, statewide environmental organization in New York that takes a pragmatic approach to fight for clean water, healthy air, renewable energy, and open space. For more information, visit www.nylcv.org.