INDEPENEDENCE, Mo. — Under the infrastructure bill over the next five years the EPA will offer schools $5 billion to replace older diesel engine buses. Half will be reserved for electric school buses, the rest for cleaner fuel alternatives like CNG and propane.

For many school districts it’s about helping the environment. But it also comes down to dollars and cents. Right now the Independence School District is finding propane to be a cheaper cleaner alternative.

Cutting three inch holes in the engines of school busses would usually be cause for alarm. But that’s exactly what crews were doing at the Independence Transportation Center Tuesday.

“That way it insures the EPA that these busses can no longer be out on the road,” Tracy Spoeth, accounting and operations manager for Leonardo Academy Inc.

Independence just received the bulk of federal funding in Missouri to replace older dirtier diesel engines buses with 10 propane powered ones. The Diesel Emission Reduction Act 2021 grant applied for on the district’s behalf by Leonardo Academy Inc. is worth nearly $450,000.

“It’s something the district has gone toward simply for a couple reasons. We were looking for a cleaner solution and we were looking for more stability as far as fuel pricing was concerned,” Daryl Huddleston, Independence Schools transportation director, explained.

Independence school buses drive 1.2 million miles a year. That’s five trips to the moon or nearly 500 trips to California and back. So cheaper prices at the pump, and fewer emissions can make a big difference.

“You have 70 kids riding that bus twice a day. If they are intaking that diesel into their little lungs it causes so much cancer and everything else,” Spoeth said.

Though the changes are geared toward helping future generations, Independence is already looking to one big benefit they’ll see immediately this winter.

“Typically when temperatures are low diesel gels and makes it harder to start so we have to come start buses ahead of time to make sure we are prepared for the school day and with a propane bus we don’t have a concern,” Huddleston said.