Our House is on Fire and the School is Buying Another Gas Bus

By: Patty L. Buchanan

[Editor’s  note: This is the second in a series of articles about Electric Vehicles  marking Croton100’s observation of National Drive Electric Week,  September 26 to October 4, 2020.] 

Here are a few of this week’s news headlines:  “The Effects of Climate Change, Including Wildfires, Threaten U.S. Financial Markets, a Federal Report Found,” “Wildfires and Extreme Weather Batter Several Western States,”  “Wildfires Hasten Another Climate Crises:  Homeowners Who Can’t Get Insurance,”  “Heat Waves Roast Southern California With Record of 112 Degrees,” “In Oregon, a New Climate Menace, Fires Raging Where They Don’t Usually Burn,” “Oregon Official Warns of a ‘Mass Fatality Incident,’” reporting on the deaths of a 13-year old and a 16-year old: “As West Coast Burns, Young Lives Are Cut Short by Fire.”  It’s hard to miss the impacts of global warming and related climate disruptions that have been on display this week as reports have made clear that the fires raging in the Western United States have been exacerbated by unprecedented heat, which has led to unusually dry vegetation, and hotter stronger winds.

Missing from the headlines, however, was this stomach-kicking news: the Croton School District is buying a new gasoline bus, a gas van and it has not committed to upgrade its fleet with even one plug-in hybrid vehicle.  This is the latest development in the continuing challenge of making necessary changes to reduce carbon emissions to stave off climate calamities.  The School’s decision is especially poignant because it purportedly serves the interest of our community’s young people, the very same people who will suffer the most because of climate disruption by the ever-growing global warming gases accumulating in our atmosphere for decades to come.

Croton100 strongly opposes this gas bus purchase.  It has meticulously documented the reasons this is an unnecessary and harmful course of action.  The deliberations about whether the time had come to forego any more fossil fuel school buses was aired this past Spring (as the Covid19 pandemic shutdown the schools and most civic engagements).  The public’s attention crested with the bond vote authorizing the School to borrow $225,000 to upgrade its transportation fleet.  In addition to the voter approved funds, the State of New York also adds 35% or $78,750 to the School’s budget as a result of the District’s bond.  None of this money has been used to reduce its transportation carbon emissions.

This decision to buy another gas bus brings me to despair.  The School District Leadership has been fully educated about the perils of carbon emissions and the imperative to reduce emissions by 5% per year. Transitioning just one bus in its fleet of 44 vehicles would put the School on the right path, but it chose not to start that journey.  

The District has received ample information about available technically suitable electric school buses.  But, upon information and belief, it declined to issue a request for proposals to one of the premier electric school bus manufacturers, Lion Electric.

Croton100 provided the School with a proposal from Lion Electric, but the School did not take any meaningful steps to explore that proposal or other Lion offerings.  Instead, the School has committed to continue to buy its buses from a vendor that does not have an electric bus to sell.  Having committed to buy its new bus from a vendor that cannot sell an electric bus this year foreclosed any meaningful possibility of buying an electric bus now.

The speciousness of the School’s hesitation due, in part, to purportedly unstable electricity infrastructure at its bus depot is laid bare by the recent installation of a 301 KW community solar farm, on the adjacent Village public works building.  Con Edison can and will work with the community and facilities to accommodate the changes in electricity demands necessitated by electrification of transportation.  Croton100 offered specific resources and electric bus expertise to the School, but the School declined to respond to these offers.  The School sealed its windows and doors around its fossil fuel school bus echo chamber.  Croton100 also made numerous offers to facilitate funding for an electric bus, including identifying $200,000 in subsidy funds from NYSERDA that are available until September 30, 2020, which the School is choosing to forego.  Using the grant would have brought the cost of an electric bus into the same ballpark as a gas bus.  It is simply unfathomable how the School District could be aware of the climate crisis that is causing so much destruction and refuse to act in accordance with science, reason and financially prudent measures.  This truly is a time to pause in a moment of despair.

And now . . .

I pick myself up, dust myself off and jump head-first into preparing for National Drive Electric Week.

Continuing to advocate for adoption of electric vehicles is a rational response.  Participating in educating and advocating for reduction in perilous carbon emissions is a salve for the School District’s effective denial of climate change.  If you are in a hole of climate crisis despair, join me in climbing out.  Educate and advocate for necessary change.  And, please reduce your own carbon emissions on your journey.

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