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Long Island wants Hochul to 'pump the brakes’ on electric bus mandate

 A Lion electric school bus is seen on display in Austin, Texas, Feb. 22, 2023. The Transportation Department is awarding almost $1.7 billion in grants for buying zero and low emission buses, with the money going to transit projects in 46 states and territories. The grants will enable transit agencies and state and local governments to buy 1,700 U.S.-built buses, nearly half of which will have zero carbon emissions. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Eric Gay
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AP
A Lion electric school bus is seen on display.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan for New York to transition to electric school buses is getting backlash from Republican lawmakers and school officials on Long Island.

Hochul included a mandate in the 2022 budget that requires all new buses purchased to be zero-emission, electric buses by 2027. School districts are required to shift their entire fleet from diesel to electric school buses by July 2035.

“Not only do we have to pump the brakes, we have to stop it entirely,” said Bob Vecchio, the executive director for the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association, at a rally on Sunday outside a Levittown bus yard.

Vecchio joined Republican lawmakers from Long Island to argue that swapping 45,000 school buses statewide for electric buses would cost an estimated $9 billion and could not be supported by the state’s current infrastructure, including charging stations.

“Schools are going to be paying for this before the first electric buses are on the road because if you are in negotiation with a transportation provider for a contract right now, you are going to be paying those escalated costs today for a promise of higher expenses tomorrow,” Vecchio said.

In November, Hochul rolled out $100 million in state grants to help school districts cover electric bus costs under the state’s $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act.

"Old school buses are putting children's health at risk, spewing toxic fumes and pollutants into the air that are proven to have negative health impacts," a spokesperson for the governor told WSHU in a statement. "After New York voters approved an Environmental Bond Act that allocated $500 million for zero-emission school buses, Governor Hochul is working with communities across New York to allocate these funds and ensure they are fully utilized."

The federal government also provides schools a $7,500 tax credit for each bus purchased. The Environmental Protection Agency also has a $1 billion program paying for a small number of electric buses.

Maya Duclay is a news intern at WSHU for the spring of 2024.