DEQ expands eligibility for school bus engine grants

Across the state, students are beginning to head back to in-person schooling, and that means more and more school buses are returning to the roads. As such, Oregon DEQ is working to make that transportation cleaner and safer for those children and the environment.

Recently, the agency announced it has expanded the range of buses eligible for its Diesel School Bus Replacement Grant Program to engine model years 2002 through 2007. It is estimated more than 1,100 school buses now qualify for funding, including those from school districts that previously applied for and were awarded grants. 

School bus having engine trouble

The program’s goal is to replace, retrofit or re-power at least 450 dirty diesel school buses in an effort to protect human health and improve air quality by reducing harmful emissions. A 2015 DEQ report details health benefits for students travelling on lower emissions buses, including improved lung function and reduced incidences of bronchitis and asthma, with resulting decreases in absenteeism.

“More efficient diesel engines burn up to 95% cleaner than the older, dirtier versions. That’s a significant improvement,” said DEQ Air Quality Administrator Ali Mirzakhalili. “By broadening the number of diesel engines that qualify, we are encouraging school districts to work with us to upgrade even more of their bus fleets for the benefit of their students and the environment.”

Funds allow buses to be replaced or equipped with exhaust control technology to reduce particulate matter emissions. In addition to having more efficient and lower emission engines, the vehicles comply with the Oregon statute (ORS468A.796¹) requiring cleaner burning diesel school buses ahead of a 2025 deadline.

DEQ’s Diesel Bus Replacement Grant Program receives funding through the VW Diesel Emissions Settlement. Each award reimburses 100% of the cost to retrofit or 30% of the cost to replace qualified school bus diesel engines. School districts across the state, including Clackamas, Eugene 4J, Milton-Freewater and Salem-Keizer, have already used grants to update buses.

Since its launch in early 2018, the grants have supported the replacement of 259 diesel school bus engines across more than 65 Oregon school districts. An additional 87 school bus engines are in the process of being approved for replacement. Prior to today, only 2005 to 2007 model year engines were eligible to have diesel engines replaced, retrofitted or re-powered.

The program application window is open for several more months. School districts interested in a grant can visit DEQ’s Diesel School Bus Replacement Grant Program web page or contact for more information.

–Susan C. Mills, public affairs specialist

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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