Brand new, environmentally-friendly school buses will soon start rolling across Tennessee, thanks to a new grant program.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced Monday that 39 school systems and bus contractors would divide a total of $8,854,685.42 to replace at least one aging bus with a new diesel, alternate-fueled, or all-electric school bus.

The competitive grant program is funded by the Volkswagen Diesel Settlement Environmental Mitigation Trust (VW Settlement EMT), which is meant to help reduce harmful emissions.

“These grants will help us to better protect our children and our environment,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Investing in technologically-advanced transportation updates, particularly in our rural counties, is one way we are supporting the health and safety of our students.”

Several East Tennessee districts will benefit, including: 

  • Campbell County School System
  • Fentress County Board of Education
  • Greene County Schools
  • Hancock County School System
  • Lynch Bus Lines, LLC (services Knox County Schools)
  • Morgan County Board of Education
  • Oneida Special School District
  • Roane County Board of Education
  • Scott County School District
  • SCU Bus Lines (services Knox County Schools)
  • Sevier County Schools

“Projects supported by this program will reduce air pollutants that threaten public health and the environment,” said David Salyers, commissioner of TDEC. “By lowering school bus emissions, we can enhance quality of life in our state, particularly for our children.” 

The 39 grant winners will replace a total of 143 engine model year 2009 or older school buses with 68 new diesel, one all-electric, 66 propane, and eight compressed natural gas school buses.

The $423 million National VW Environmental Trust Fund was the result of a partial settlement with Volkswagen over the car manufacturer’s use of devices that allowed its diesel-powered vehicles to pass emissions testing that violated the Clean Air Act.