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School bus

Photo by Sid Hastings

The Environmental Protection Agency is offering rebates to 18 Missouri school districts — including some near St. Louis — to replace older, diesel school buses.

The $745,000 total extended to schools around the state will help cover the replacement of 40 buses. The sum is part of a broader outlay of $8.7 million nationally for bus replacements and retrofits, funded through the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act program.

The rebates offered through the program will knock down the sticker price that eligible school districts pay by $15,000 to $20,000 apiece, depending on the size of the bus.

St. Louis-area school districts to receive the funding include De Soto, Mehlville, Valley Park, New Haven and the Lincoln County R-III School District, in Troy, which is by far the state’s largest recipient of the money, with $150,000 to be put toward 10 new buses. No other district received more than $60,000 to help with three bus upgrades.

The EPA says the initiative aims to protect the health of children by decreasing emissions of pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

“There are links to health problems like asthma and lung damage, and with school buses carrying our most treasured possessions — our youth — we’d like (the funding) to energize some work in those areas by cities and states,” said David Bryan, a public affairs specialist at the agency’s regional headquarters near Kansas City.

Funding upgrades to cleaner school buses is gaining widespread traction at other levels of government, too. Though not part of a coordinated effort, the EPA’s move is similar to investment under consideration by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which signaled that it is likely to pursue similar upgrades with at least some of its $41 million from the Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement.

Deliberation on how to spend that money is still ongoing, but DNR officials suggested that the EPA’s separate move could help “get the most bang for the buck” in terms of funding bus replacements.

“They’re separate but certainly related,” said Darcy Bybee, director of DNR’s Air Pollution Control Program. “The timing is good.”

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