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    East Baton Rouge Parish School System Still Making Progress in Transitioning to Cleaner School Buses

    By Olivia Montgomery, LCF Intern | Originally posted to Fuels Fix | Original Article

    After the August 2016 floods wiped out about 110 school buses in East Baton Rouge Parish, the school system seized the opportunity to transition its fleet to cleaner fuel options, becoming the recipient of Louisiana Clean Fuels’s Rising Star Award in 2017. Thanks to the availability of Volkswagen Settlement funding, a number of other school systems in Louisiana are now making the transition too, including in the parishes of Ascension, Lafayette, Winn, Rapides, St. John the Baptist, Beauregard, Bossier, Plaquemines, St. Helena, Union, Vernon, and Tangipahoa. 

    Nearly four years later, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS) continues its efforts to reduce its fleet’s emissions. In 2016, the school system received nearly $773,000 in Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funding to purchase 30 buses. DERA grants fund 25% of the total cost of new buses. EBRPSS has since received two more DERA grants, in addition to receiving a portion of the civil settlement from automaker Volkswagen, who settled claims with US authorities after violating emissions laws by installing a “defeat device” in thousands of vehicles. Ultimately, these four grants total $4,485,894.50 and, in conjunction with EBRPSS funds, will purchase 130 propane school buses over time. 

    EBRPSS’s shift to propane school buses showcases an important trend across the country and offers benefits including reduced operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Propane buses are shown to reduce fuel costs significantly. Roush CleanTech, manufacturer of the propane autogas system installed in Blue Bird Vision school buses, estimates fleets can lower their fuel costs by 40% by switching to propane, in addition to lower costs of maintenance over time. Case studies support this estimate, with Mesa Unified School District in Phoenix, Arizona reporting having saved $2.91 per gallon on fuel compared to diesel. Mesa expects to save $4.43 million on fuel costs over five years, and they expect each bus will have a longer lifespan than conventional diesel buses, with about five additional years on the road for each bus. EBRPSS reports spending $1,970,173 on fuel from July 2015 to June 2016. If the school district saves 40% per year, as Roush CleanTech estimates is possible, the savings would total an annual $788,069.20 reduction in fuel costs.


    Reducing emissions in school bus fleets is another direct benefit to children in the school system. Children are more susceptible to harmful side effects of exhaust due to their developing respiratory systems and faster rates of breathing. With school buses able to seat about 70 children per bus, reducing diesel exhaust and improving air quality is a top priority of school systems making the switch to propane. EBRPSS alone serves 42,000 children. A comprehensive study by the Propane Education and Research Council shows propane school buses emit up to 96% less NOx and 13% less carbon dioxide than diesel buses. 

    The future looks bright in regard to EBRPSS’s ability to procure more propane buses. The school system plans to apply for additional DERA grants in the years to come, and many states are adopting more programs to aid school systems in their transition to cleaner school bus fleets. For example, West Virginia counties using compressed natural gas or propane autogas in their school bus fleets may be eligible for a 10% reimbursement to offset the maintenance and costs of those buses. In Nevada, penalties assessed for air pollution violations are deposited into the account of the school district where they occurred and may be used for the purchase of school buses that operate on alternative fuels. At this time, EBRPSS will incrementally acquire buses through the referenced grants, and hopefully, new funding sources become available to continue the school system’s transition to cleaner fuels after all 130 new propane buses have arrived.

    Read the original Fuels Fix Article


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    Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) National Grants Now Open: 2020 Request for Applications

    Deadline to Apply - February 26, 2020 (11:59 p.m. ET)

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is excited to announce the availability of approximately $44 million in Diesel Emission Reduction Program (DERA) grant funds to support projects aimed at reducing emissions from the nation's existing fleet of older diesel engines. Under this competition, between 40 and 60 awards are anticipated to be made to eligible applicants.

    Application packages must be submitted electronically to EPA through Grants.gov (www.grants.gov) no later than Wednesday, February 26, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. (ET) to be considered for funding.

    Visit the DERA web page for more information

    Important Dates

    Activity Date
    Request for Applications (RFA) OPEN Monday, December 9, 2019
    Information Session Webinars
    Wednesday, December 11, 2019; 1:00 p.m. (ET)
     
    Wednesday, December 18, 2019; 3:00 p.m. (ET)
     
    Tuesday, January 14, 2020; 3:00 p.m. (ET)
     
    1+ (202) 991-0477, 4149804# (audio dial-in number)
    Questions and Answers Document
    Deadline for Submittal of Questions
    February 14, 2020 at 4 p.m. ET
    Deadline for Applications Wednesday, February 26, 2020, at 11:59  p.m. (ET)
    Notification of Selected Applicants May 2020
    Funding of Awards June-October, 2020


    Eligible Applicants

    The following U.S. entities are eligible to apply for DERA National Grants:

    • Regional, state, local or tribal agencies/consortia or port authorities with jurisdiction over transportation or air quality
    • Nonprofit organizations or institutions that represent or provide pollution reduction or educational services to persons or organizations that own or operate diesel fleets or have the promotion of transportation or air quality as their principal purpose.


    School districts, municipalities, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), cities and counties are all eligible entities to the extent that they fall within the definition above.


    Eligible Uses of Funding

    Eligible diesel vehicles, engines and equipment include:

    • School buses
    • Class 5 – Class 8 heavy-duty highway vehicles
    • Locomotive engines
    • Marine engines
    • Nonroad engines, equipment or vehicles used in construction, handling of cargo (including at ports or airports), agriculture, mining or energy production (including stationary generators and pumps).


    Grant funds may be used for diesel emission reduction projects including:


    Funds awarded under this program cannot be used to fund emission reductions mandated by federal law. Equipment for testing emissions or fueling infrastructure is not eligible for funding.

    Please refer to the full RFA for specific information about this competition.

    Informational Webinars

    2020 DERA National Grants

    Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at 12 to 1 p.m. CST
    Join at: https://meet.lync.com/usepa/swift.faye/TG550JGJ

    Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 2 to 3 p.m. CST
    Join at: https://meet.lync.com/usepa/swift.faye/GKLCM5S6

    Wednesday, January 14, 2019 at 2 to 3 p.m. CST
    Join at: https://meet.lync.com/usepa/swift.faye/Q4CD0Z03

    Dial-In: (202) 991-0477
    Participant Code: 4149804#

    Webinar Highlights

    • Program Details
    • Changes This Year
    • Eligible Entities, Projects, Vehicles, Engines & Equipment
    • Funding: Availability, Project Funding Percentage, Restrictions
    • Proposal Submission
    • Evaluation Criteria
    • Potential Pitfalls
    • Tools, Resources and Support
    • Question & Answer Period


    If you have questions, please contact [email protected].

    Visit the DERA web page for more information


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