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State Republicans want change in electric bus mandate

Members of the New York State Republican Conferences are looking to replace the electric bus mandate with a statewide pilot program and put feasibility studies into place.

State Sen. George Borrello, Assemblyman Philip Palmesano, and other members of the state Senate and Assembly Republican Conferences held a press conference Monday afternoon calling to “pump the brakes” on the electric bus mandates for schools, citing that the mandate is not feasible.

Concerns addressed included that electric buses can only reach about 100 miles per charge in warm, nice weather, which will go down drastically in the cold; the lack of funding to help schools purchase the vehicles ; and the lack of studies that have been done to determine whether the mandate would actually work in rural areas.

“We are not in the dream business, we are in reality,” Borrello said. “We need to do a real NYSERDA study. These buses are more expensive and you cannot do a one for one trade off between diesel and electric buses.”

Safety on electric buses was another big concern addressed, including how a bus that is twice as heavy as a normal, diesel bus will be able to handle going over rural bridges and the possibility of batteries exploding.

As it stands, new school buses sold in New York will have to be zero-emission by 2027. Further, all school buses on the road will have to be zero-emission by 2035.

Multiple speakers Monday called for a delay in the rollout.

“This is a lack of reality mandate,” state Sen. Jim Tedisco said. “Regular electric vehicles cost $400,000 to $450,000. The funding for this mandate is not there.”

Tedisco also cited the need for trained drivers to be able to drive electric buses.

“We are not against cleaner energy in the future but you want to create a perfect world without the funding needed to be there,” Tedisco said.

Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh said when Gov. Kathy Hochul created the mandate that the groundwork was not done. She said that no studies were done for what would be workable or unworkable, specifically in rural areas.

“This groundwork should have been done and it wasn’t,” Walsh said. “We are asking for a rollback for time to do a study. We have to do a study to get a broad idea if this is even feasible.”

Bob Kileen, a bus mechanic for the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District, discussed the aging workforce of the bus mechanic industry and the dangers involved of not only being a mechanic but of the possibility of buses exploding as well.

“These batteries are extremely explosive,” Kileen said. “You have seconds if these batteries blow up. There is almost no time to get students out.”

Kileen added that there is even less time for buses that carry students in wheelchairs.

State Sen. Tom O’Mara said the state is currently a leader in clean energy and zero emissions. He added that the funding for infrastructure is not there, and that the cost of both the infrastructure and buses is at the most expensive point right now.

State Sen. Dan Stec called for studies and instead of mandating it all over the state to start with more urban districts whose bus routes last two or three miles instead of 70 to 100.

Borrello said this mandate will harm more than it helps, adding that it will do nothing to help fix the climate change crisis.

“Many of my colleagues feel that climate change is an existential crisis,” Borrello said. “They say that the cost of doing nothing is greater, but this mandate will cost the lives of our kids, ruin our economy, and will chase people out of the state. We will get nothing. We have to live in reality.”

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