Halifax County is set to receive a $79,820 grant to help replace 10 diesel buses with propane buses.

The current fleet of approximately 120 buses currently has an estimated 30 propane buses with fueling stations at Syndor Jennings Elementary School, Cluster Springs Elementary School and Scottsburg Elementary School.

This more than $79,000 is part of $10.5 million in funds from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust, administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, to replace 83 diesel school buses with electric and propane buses in 19 school districts across commonwealth.

“Many of our families struggle to make ends meet,” said Halifax County Public Schools Director of Transportation Tammy Lacks Moore. “These funds will enable us to replace 10 diesel buses without raising taxes on our already burdened population, all while making sure we are doing everything we can to help improve our community.”

Keith McDowell, current Halifax County School Board member and former transportation assistant shop foreman for Halifax County Public Schools has been advocating for more propane buses since 2014 and been working with Virginia Clean Cities, former transportation director Dwight Elam and others to help secure funding for more propane business.

“Propane is more efficient and cheaper,” McDowell said before explaining the benefits of savings in not only fuel, but also maintenance.

Superintendent of schools Dr. Mark Lineburg commended McDowell for his efforts as well as those in the transportation department for helping Halifax County Public Schools “be more energy efficient and reduce long-term care cost.”

Now with the 2021 grant awarded to Halifax County for these propane buses, Halifax County Public School officials and school board members looking at buses to purchase.

The grant that provides the money for this initiative came from a trust funded by the Volkswagen settlement that is working to reduce emissions and support environmental programs.

The attorney general’s office announced a settlement with Volkswagen in 2016 that committed $2.7 billion to environmental mitigation. This settlement has provided the funding for many eco-friendly initiatives across the commonwealth.

The attorney general’s negotiations of this settlement secured resources for environmental causes for many years to come, and reinforces Virginia’s commitment to a clean economy.

In September 2019, Gov. Ralph Northam directed $20 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to support new initiatives aimed at deploying electric school buses across the Commonwealth.

The Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for distributing Virginia’s share of $93.6 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust by investing in a diverse range of technologies that provide cost-effective, near-term emission benefits coupled with zero-emission technologies that provide long-term benefits. 

To date, approximately $62 million has been awarded for innovative projects including electric transit, school and shuttle buses, electric equipment at the Port of Virginia, and the development of a statewide electric-vehicle charging network.

The Department of Environmental Quality will begin accepting applications in October for an additional round of funds for public school districts to purchase more propane or electric school buses.