Ongoing Efforts to Fund the Diesel Emission Reduction Act
For over a decade, Prime Policy Group has worked with a trade association representing school bus transportation providers and a major manufacturer of diesel engines in support of securing authorization and funding for a voluntary Federal diesel emission reduction programs.
Initially our focus was on working with a broad coalition of interests to develop and enact legislation focused on grants to retrofit, repair or replace aging school buses. And, when Congress enacted the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05), securing funding for that program became our critical focus.
In 2010, we helped to lead the industry-environmental coalition working to enact a reauthorization of the program. On behalf of the school transportation industry, we helped successfully advocate for changes to the program to benefit private contractors who provide school transportation services to local school districts. Language included in the final bill required that EPA work to streamline the grant application process, authorized a simplified rebate program and allowed private school bus contractors to compete on an equal basis with publicly owned systems.
When Congress first authorized DERA, it was an EPA grant program for all diesel vehicles with an authorization level of $200 million per year for five years. From the very first months, we worked with a broad coalition of interests that included manufacturers of diesel vehicles and equipment, emission control technology suppliers, diesel vehicle users and environmental and public health advocates in support of both authorization and funding. Since 2011, Prime Policy Group has played the lead role in organizing the coalition and advocating for funding and reauthorization of DERA.
We have also worked closely with EPA in the administration of the program, which is considered one of the most cost effective grant programs administered by the agency. During the past four years, they have offered school bus rebates on an equal basis for public and privately fleets and have established a “stretch” goal of upgrading all school buses with the newer emission control technology.
We helped secure initial funding for diesel retrofits in the fiscal 2003 EPA funding bill and in each year since then. Over the past decade, Congress has provided over $700 million in funding. Additionally, we were successful in securing legislation enacted as part of both the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05) and the 2005 surface transportation reauthorization bill which provided $55 million each in FY 2006 and 2007 for grants to retrofit, repair or replace aging school buses.
Additionally, as the program is again up for reauthorization and we have secured language in the pending comprehensive Senate energy bill (S. 2012) and also bipartisan freestanding reauthorizations of the program introduced in the House and Senate. Since its implementation, DERA has been recognized as one of the most cost-effective clean air programs administered by the federal government, with a $3 return for every $1 spent. The success of the program and of our efforts on behalf of private school bus companies is reflected in the recently proposed $2.7 billion Mitigation Trust Fund included as part of the draft settlement with Volkswagen over the Clean Air Act violations associated with some of the company’s diesel vehicles. That Trust Fund would provide additional funding essentially mirroring the DERA program at the state level and would treat private school transportation providers as governmental entities, making them eligible for 100 percent funding for purchases of new school buses and school bus engine.