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    May 3rd 2022 An electric school bus for Ely from “Infrastructure Bill” funds

    An Opportunity for Ely Schools – The EPA Clean School Bus Program

    From the EPA’s Clean School Bus website:

    The bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Clean School Bus Program provides $5 billion over 5 years to spur the transformation of the nation’s school bus fleet. Half of the $5 billion total funding is dedicated for zero-emission school buses. $500 million available in 2022. Applications accepted between May and August 2022.

    Benefits of zero-emission buses: zero tail pipe pollution, reduced greenhouse gas emission compared to diesel school buses, potential for reduced maintenance and fuel costs, potential for fleets to partner with local utilities to feed power back into the grid when buses not in use and electricity demand is high.


    Electric School bus action – please contact school board members to urge them to apply for an electric school bus for Ely.

    Suggested email language- also feel free to add your own message. 


    Dear School Board Chair Marsnik,

    I am a concerned taxpayer in the Ely School District ISD 696. I’m writing today to urge Ely’s Schools to take advantage of federal funds available to purchase electric school buses. It’s time to phase out diesel buses to protect the health of students and bus drivers and to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.  Electric school buses have lower fuel costs and need less maintenance.

    The first round of EPA funding applications will be opening up in May of this year and we hope that you are prepared to apply for these electric school bus grants and rebates.  We ask that you and your transportation leadership review the EPA clean school bus program web page where you will find up to date information about the benefits of electric school buses and how to apply for rebates that could fully fund the cost of purchasing new electric school buses for our district.  Google “EPA clean school bus program” to get to the web site.

    Ensure your school district has applied for federal unique identity number at which is necessary to receive federal rebates and grants

    The MN Clean Cities Coalition is a great resource for school districts. Contact Lisa Thurstin, 651-223-9568, to find out about their webinars, how to do a fleet inventory, and other resources.  You can find additional links on the Ely Climate Change website

    Thank you for taking steps to procure federal funds for electric school buses to support student health and a healthy climate!


    Signed _______________________________   May xx, 2022


    Ely School District 696    School Board members

    Tony Colarich  School Board Director

    Hollee Coombe  School Board Director

    Chad Davis  School Board Director

    Ray Marsnik  School Board Chairperson

    Tom Omerza  School Board Treasurer

    Rochelle Sjoberg  School Board Clerk


    Excerpts from The Minnesota Reformer “Electrifying Minnesota school bus fleet will pay big dividends” by Madi Johnson Mar 2, 2022

    It’s time for Minnesota to electrify our school bus fleet. 

    The biggest winners when we do it will be our school kids. Diesel fumes inside of buses and at bus stops are respiratory hazards for developing lungs. Ground level air pollution in high-density and high-traffic neighborhoods has been shown to disproportionately impact low income and marginalized communities. There is strong correlational data showing that exposure to air pollution leads to poorer grades and increased absenteeism. Especially in denser areas, cleaning up our buses and converting other diesel trucks to electric will have measurable health benefits. And, reducing the amount of pollution drivers are exposed to also helps create safer jobs. 

    Regarding cost: Over its lifetime and given the health and climate benefits, an electric school bus at full price is still more cost effective than diesel. They benefit from cheaper fuel, lower maintenance costs and a longer lifespan.

    The health benefits of electrifying our fleet of trucks and buses also mean savings.  According to the MPCA, between 2,000 and 4,000 Minnesotans die each year due to air pollution. Reducing vehicle pollution will result in hundreds fewer premature deaths and hospital visits each year. 

    Electric vehicle fleets also promote economic stability and local self-reliance. Interruptions in the supply of petroleum should untoward events occur on the international stage — like Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine — will not affect the price or availability of wind and solar generated electricity.  Also, battery prices, which have plummeted in the past 10 years, are expected to drop even further and may become more technologically advanced. Which could mean significant improvements in range and reduction in cost. Finally, the use of home grown, often Minnesota-made electricity to power our fleet of buses and trucks — instead of spending our money in other states or other countries — has economic benefits.

    An electric and conventional bus will be the same price after about 12 years of regular use, according to the transportation managers responsible for the electric buses.

    Electric utilities such as Xcel Energy, Great River Energy and Dakota Electric are also doing their part to hasten this transition. The utilities are helping with charging infrastructure and offering energy credits to incentivize schools to fuel their buses with electrons instead of diesel. 

    The federal infrastructure bill made $2.5 billion available for electric school buses and $2.5 billion for low emission buses. In short, the buses are great, the price is right, and the money is there.  

    But not necessarily in Minnesota, which hasn’t created a comprehensive plan to transition its buses; we are positioning ourselves to miss out on that investment. Unlike 16 other states, Minnesota has not set commitments to replace conventional school buses or medium and heavy duty vehicles with electric. 

    At the local level, we are seeing some progress. Metro Transit just announced a zero emission bus plan, and the cities of Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester have had electric buses on the ground for years. This has been despite state government inaction. 

    There are also jobs at stake. To bring them to fruition, our state needs to set goals — not just to hit the climate goals we are legally bound to meet in the Next Generation Energy Act — but to create a robust green economy that keeps manufacturing in Minnesota. Electric vehicle manufacturing provides more than 1,000 jobs in Minnesota. Minnesota’s going to miss out on these jobs and this investment if we don’t start positioning ourselves.

    This is how school buses should be supported in MN:


    Additional practical information and help for school board members writing proposals can be found from Lisa Thurstin MN Clean Cities Coalition Coordinator. This is from Lisa:


    Below are resources from the webinar as well as what we can offer:

    1. Minnesota Clean Cities Coalition (MC3) staff can assist with grant writing or application review
    2. MC3 can assist with a fleet analysis (no cost) of how an electric (or other clean fuel) would fit in the fleet. Use this template and send back to us to get started. EPA’s school bus inventory template(.xlsx)
    3. Set up a meeting with multiple Bus manufacturers to discuss best fit for your fleet.
    4. Introduction to Xcel Energy staff to start conversation of expectations of added electric.
    5. And more – provide general education to your team, provide surveys to gauge interest/knowledge in community or district.


    April 8th, we hosted a webinar on Electric School Buses. Our speakers provided a variety of perspectives on the benefits and considerations of deploying electric buses. And we hope what we shared on the upcoming EPA Clean School Bus Rebate program will be helpful.  The recording can be found on our YouTube channel:


    We have a plethora of links and opportunities for more information listed below. By signing up to receive our monthly newsletter with Clean Cities Coalition you can be kept updated on funding opportunities, news, events and more.


    Presentation slides:


    Keep informed:


    Other resources:


    Best regards,  Lisa


    Lisa Thurstin Director | Clean Air

    Minnesota Clean Cities Coalition

    American Lung Association in Minnesota

    490 Concordia Ave | Saint Paul, MN 55103

    O:  651-223-9568 |


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