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A Merited Legislative Death to Mourn: Electric School Bus Bill Dies in Virginia House

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by A Siegel

Upfront,

Regrettably but appropriately, the last legislative vote in the Virginia House of Delegates killed SB1380 by a 41 Yea-49 Nay (28 Republican, 21 Democratic Delegates) margin.

  • Appropriate because this legislation would have enabled (even more) Dominion excess profiteering, given (far too much) power to Dominion over school bus parameters, and placed Dominion’s interests and priorities over all other benefit streams from getting off diesel.
  • Regrettable because ESBs should be deployed as rapidly as possible due to the tremendous benefit streams:
    • ESBs eliminate the diesel fumes that create serious health problems for students riding buses and the general community.
    • ESBs save money as electricity is cheaper than diesel and electric vehicles require less maintenance.
    • ESBs perform better — safer, quieter, smoother, better handling.
    • ESBs make the grid work better.
    • ESB deployment is a path to accelerate the transportation part of “Electrify Everything” which is a (perhaps the) key tool to mitigate the climate crisis.

While it was appropriate for the Virginia House to refuse to green light such a flawed bill, no one should be celebratory on SB1380’s death as this portends unaffordable delay in moving forward in replacing Virginia’s over 15,000 diesel school buses with cleaner, better performing, more affordable electric school buses.

To address this, Governor Northam should put together a task force to create a compromise path forward for rapid ESB deployment. That task should include stakeholders — concerned parents, environmental organizations, Dominion, educators, EV advocates, and others — who support ESBs even as, at this time, their ‘preferred paths forward’ have some radical differences. Compromise should be possible. Compromise that strengthens the grid, improves public school finance, provides Dominion with reasonable profits while treating ratepayers fairly, boosts Virginia’s economy, strengthens the grid, reduces pollution, boost student performance, and leads to healthier and happier Virginia school students. Working together, this task force should be tasked to have a report and recommended legislation before summer 2021.

And, Governor Northam should call for a special session to move this (and other issues to be discussed elsewhere) forward. While Virginia’s “part time” legislators are seriously underpaid for their clearly far from ‘just’ part-time work, ESB deployment matters and every day’s delay matters. Having legislation passed in July 2021, rather than February 2022, is worth this extra effort.

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