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No rust proofing prompts new electric school bus legislation

The inability to rust proof electric school buses is going to drive the yearly cost of the buses higher.

The state Assembly passed legislation (A.9238) late last week that changes the date of amortization from 12 years to eight years for the electric buses, a move lawmakers say will allow school districts to account for the shorter-than-anticipated useful life of the new buses. The bill is up for discussion in the state Senate before the legislative session ends this week.

When the state Legislature passed legislation requiring school districts to begin adding electric school buses to their fleets, the bill allowed school districts 12 years rather than eight years to pay for the electric buses. The additional term was a way to keep the yearly costs down for the more expensive buses. But, electric school buses can’t be rust proofed without voiding their warranties – meaning the buses aren’t likely to last longer than 10 years, leaving school districts paying for buses that were no longer in service.

“Purchasing an asset, you know like if you buy a car or a house, you don’t you don’t get a loan for longer than the period of useful life is of that asset,” said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake and sponsor of A.9238. “Having the amortization be 12 years for electric school buses put our school districts in a financial pickle, which many of them raised with all of us, that they can’t be paying for something that they can no longer be using. School buses come off the road not because of the mechanics but because of corrosion. We have a lot of salt on our roads in the winter and that corrodes the body of the bus. Every school bus is sold with a rubberized undercoating, but many school districts on their diesel buses for the protection of them, on an annual basis, apply a sort of an oily substance which creeps into the metal and protects it from corrosion. But with electric school buses that is not possible – that voids the warranty. So this is an important step to make sure that we maintain the physical integrity of our school districts as they approach this transition to zero emission buses.”

Earlier this year, Republicans in the Senate and Assembly called on Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature’s Democratic majorities to pause the 2027 statewide implementation of the electric school bus mandate to allow for the completion of a pilot program, cost-benefit analysis and other feasibility assessments. The electric school bus mandate, enacted in 2022, requires new school bus purchases to be zero emission by 2027 and all school buses in operation to be electric by 2035.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, has introduced legislation (S.8467) that would rescind the 2027 electric school bus mandate and replace it with a state-funded pilot program that would allow schools to test how these buses perform. A condition of the pilot program is that buses be sited in all three types of settings, rural, urban and suburban, so that their performance can be evaluated.

At the end of one year, a report on the program would be presented to the executive and legislature.

Those political divisions didn’t disappear in discussion of A.9238. Several Republicans spoke on the bill, reiterating prior concerns over the cost of electric school buses to school districts.

Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, voted in favor of the bill, but not before reiterating his disagreement with the state’s policy on electric school buses.

“This is an interesting public policy as we talk about these electric school buses,” Goodell said. “What we’re doing is we’re requiring our school districts to send billions of dollars from New York to China to pay for the batteries. So think about that – 99.6% of all greenhouse gasses are produced outside of New York. … Thirty percent of greenhouse gasses are produced in China. This is global warming we’re talking about, not New York state warming. Global warming. So this policy says let’s take billions of New York state tax dollars and send it to the country that produces the highest percentage of greenhouse gasses. We’re sending billions of dollars to the country that produces the highest percentage of greenhouse gasses and we think that’s helping global warming? It is making global warming worse.”

Goodell, who is retiring at year’s end and is now in the final few days of his last legislative session, urged his fellow lawmakers to take a fresh look at how the state is dealing with global warming.

“If we want to address global warming, what we should do is send less money to the world’s largest polluter and use those funds instead in a wise manner to have an impact here and reward those who are making a difference here instead of supporting the world’s largest polluter,” Goodell said. “Sadly that’s a little bit of a different story, so I’m supporting this bill, which involves the planning. But we should take a look at the large picture at some point.”

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