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The Nebraska Master Naturalist Program is a public and private partnership supported by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Nebraska Master Naturalist Foundation. Our program recruits, trains, manages, and provides resources for our Naturalist members participating in interpretation and outreach, resource management, citizen science, and outdoor skills and recreation in Nebraska.

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News & Notes

WASHINGTON — Today, May 29, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the recipients of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2023 Clean School Bus Program rebate competition, funded by President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. EPA selected approximately 530 school districts spanning nearly every state, Washington, D.C., and several Tribes and U.S. territories to receive nearly $900 million in funds to replace older, diesel fueled school buses that have been linked to asthma and other conditions that harm the health of students and surrounding communities.

These rebates will help school districts purchase over 3,400 clean school buses—92% of which will be electric— to accelerate the transition to zero emission vehicles and produce cleaner air in and around schools and communities. Under the Program's multiple grant and rebate funding opportunities to date, the EPA has awarded almost $3 billion to fund approximately 8,500 school bus replacements at over 1,000 schools.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson and U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson will join schoolchildren, district leaders and community members in Jackson, Mississippi, later today to make the announcement and highlight how the program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save schools money, and better protect children’s health, especially in communities already overburdened by pollution. The investment will also drive demand for American-made batteries and vehicles, boost domestic manufacturing, and create good-paying jobs for Americans.

“President Biden believes every child deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy life and breathe clean air, and his Investing in America agenda is designed to deliver just that,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “With today’s latest round of funding, we are transforming the nation’s school bus fleet to better protect our most precious cargo—our kids—saving school districts money, improving air quality, and bolstering American manufacturing all at the same time.”

“I am grateful to the Biden-Harris Administration for expanding opportunities to provide clean school buses to schools and students in Mississippi's Second Congressional District,” said Congressman Bennie G. Thompson. “This initiative ensures that children have a cleaner, safer, and more efficient means of school transportation and contributes to protecting our environment. By making meaningful progress and offering valuable opportunities for our students, we are paving the way toward stronger student success.”

In September 2023, the EPA announced the availability of at least $500 million for its 2023 Clean School Bus rebates. The rebate application period closed in February 2024 with an overwhelming response from school districts across the country seeking to purchase electric and clean school buses. Given the level of demand, including from low-income communities, Tribal nations and U.S. territories, the EPA doubled the initial amount of available funding in this round to a total of nearly $1 billion. 

This third round of funding will build on the previous investments of almost $2 billion via the Clean School Bus Program’s 2022 Rebates and 2023 Grants to further improve air quality in and around schools, reduce greenhouse gas pollution fueling the climate crisis, and help accelerate America’s leadership in developing the clean vehicles of the future.

The selections announced today will provide funds to school districts in 47 states and Washington D.C., along with several federally recognized Tribes and U.S. territories. Prioritized school districts in low-income, rural and Tribal communities make up approximately 45 percent of the selected projects and will receive approximately 67 percent of the total funding. The program advances President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution.

The EPA is also partnering with other federal agencies through the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation to provide school districts with robust technical assistance to ensure effective implementation.

The EPA is continuing to review selected applications and may make additional awards from this announcement. The EPA is working with those applicants and will notify them of an award if their application meets all program requirements. As additional selections are finalized, the EPA will update the CSB Awards webpage.

The EPA will also make selections through additional rounds of funding, as well as through other funding programs. For example, the EPA is currently accepting applications for the 2024 Clean Heavy-Duty Vehicles Grant Program until 11:59 PM ET on July 25, 2024 – with the EPA offering up to $932 million in available grant funding and anticipates approximately 70% of the available funding to help pay for new, zero-emission Class 6 or 7 school buses. The EPA encourages school districts not selected for the 2023 CSB Rebate Program – and those that did not apply – to participate in currently open funding programs, and future CSB funding rounds.

About the Clean School Bus Program

The EPA Clean School Bus Program was created by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides an unprecedented $5 billion of funding to transform the nation’s fleet of school buses. The Clean School Bus Program funds electric buses, which produce zero tailpipe emissions, as well as propane and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, which produce lower tailpipe emissions compared to their older diesel predecessors.

The Clean School Bus Program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money for school districts and produce cleaner air. Diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other conditions that harm students’ health and cause them to miss school, particularly in communities of color and Tribal communities. Phasing out these older diesel engines will ensure cleaner air for students, bus drivers, and school staff working near the bus loading areas, and the communities through which the buses drive each day.

The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from these bus replacements will also help to address the outsized role of the transportation sector in fueling the climate crisis. The Clean School Bus Program will save school districts money as they upgrade school bus fleets, replacing existing buses with brand new zero-emission and clean school buses, while freeing up needed resources for schools.

View the full list of Clean School Bus Program awards.

The cleverness of corvids has wowed scientists and casual birders for decades. Crows can use and even make tools, reason via analogies, and have been said to rival monkeys in cognitive capacity. They...

WASHINGTON — Today, May 28, as part of President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the selection of five recipients from across the country for grants to tackle the climate crisis by reclaiming and destroying hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning. Collectively, recipients will receive nearly $15 million in HFC Reclaim and Innovative Destruction grants from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in history.

“This diverse set of projects will tackle the destruction and reclamation of HFCs in innovative ways to help protect our climate and bolster American technologies,” said Joe Goffman, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation.

The funding made possible by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will range from $1,500,000 to $3,801,100 and support broader Biden-Harris Administration efforts to support a growing American industry on effectively managing HFCs. The selectees for this grant program are The University of Washington, Texas A&M University, Drexel University, University of California-Riverside, and the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology Institute. By increasing the reuse of existing HFCs, selected projects are expected to further reduce our economy’s need for new HFCs and reduce overall HFC impacts on our climate.

HFCs are a class of potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning, aerosols, and foam products. Their climate impact can be hundreds to thousands of times stronger than the same amount of carbon dioxide. Under the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, the Biden-Harris Administration is phasing down HFCs to achieve an 85% reduction below historical levels by 2036. President Biden also signed the U.S. ratification of the Kigali Amendment, and international agreement to phase down these super-polluting HFCs and avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100. 

With today’s announcement, this Administration is continuing to deliver win-wins for climate action and U.S. manufacturing competitiveness while ensuring that American workers reap the benefits of a growing global market for HFC reclamation and destruction. These projects help facilitate the phasedown of HFCs under the AIM Act by helping increase the amount of HFCs that can be reclaimed and reused in the economy and by developing innovative techniques to destroy unusable HFCs, ensuring they do not contribute to climate change.

EPA anticipates that grants to the selected applicants will be finalized and awarded in the summer of 2024 once all legal and administrative requirements are satisfied, and that selected applicants will begin projects in the fall and winter of this year.

To learn more about the Hydrocarbon Reclaim and Innovative Destruction grants, visit the HFC Reclaim and Innovative Destruction grants webpage.

Selected Grant Applicants

University of Washington

  • Seattle, Washington 

University of Washington’s project will evaluate and demonstrate via alkaline hydrolysis a novel way to destroy HFCs. The project aims to reduce the pollution emissions associated with HFC destruction since it does not release hydrogen fluoride or gaseous carbon dioxide. UW has an outreach plan to engage with disadvantaged communities and intends to hold workshops, public input meetings, and community consultations and incorporate that feedback into the methodologies of the project. 

Texas A&M University  

  • College Station, Texas 

Texas A&M’s project aims to reduce the time and cost of reclaiming HFCs in two ways: 1) by designing and testing a technology capable of separating a range of HFC mixtures and 2) by incorporating a data-driven decision framework for reverse logistics with high supply chain visibility that includes quality, cost efficiency, changing market dynamics, stakeholder collaboration, safety, and environmental regulation. This project intends to achieve a 30% increase in reclaimed HFC and at least a 25% reduction in cost from the baseline operation.

Drexel University 

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Drexel University’s project aims to develop a portable and energy efficient HFC destruction device by integrating liquid injection incinerator and nonthermal gliding arc plasma, which will provide refrigerant reclamation companies with an on-site treatment option for the reduction of HFC emissions. The project intends to develop a community engagement plan to evaluate environmental impacts on local communities. 

University of California - Riverside

  • Riverside, California

University of California – Riverside’s project aims to develop scalable catalytic and assisting technologies for efficient HFC destruction, which would create a competitive and cost-effective integrated destruction system. The project intends to contribute to climate change mitigation and sustainable practices in disadvantaged communities by advancing an innovative and replicable HFC destruction technique through pilot scale demonstration.

Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology Institute

  • Arlington, Virginia 

Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology Institute is developing a pilot project to chemically convert and destroy mixed HFCs back into components for new commercial use. This zero-emission technique would thereby create value from the destruction process, while also lowering the costs and energy required to destroy HFCs compared to conventional incineration methods. 

Photo by Allison Dush
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