Serving Franklin County, WA

Electric school buses may be coming

OLYMPIA — The yellow school buses you grew up riding may become a thing of the past.

Both the House and Senate approved a new "zero-emission" school measure — House Bill 1368 — during the Legislative session, making electric buses likely the only option for school districts in Washington.

Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, said he introduced the bill also on behalf of student health.

“We as a student body are exposed to 5-15 times more air pollution than adults, as a result of school bus emissions alone,” said Moa Valentin, president of the Mercer High School Green Team. 

Diesel fumes from school buses contain toxic particulates that can affect student learning and growth, she said. The exhaust can also have long-term effects on lungs, the brain and immune system.

The state Department of Ecology has a $14 million grant program to help schools cover the costs such as acquiring buses, fueling, charging, scrapping diesel buses, driver training and more.

Many school officials are worried about plan details.

“We have had technology be over-promised before, and we're hoping this is not another case of that,” said Mike Hoover of Washington State School Directors Association. “We are very much in support of the concept of zero-emission, but we have to make it work in every area of our state.”

Under the bill schools are required to start the transition to a zero-emission fleet “once the total cost of ownership of zero-emission buses is less than or equal to that of diesel buses,” Senn said.

“I understand the anxiety about this big change, but we just can't wait any longer,” Senn said. “Our children's future depends on it.” 


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