New ‘American standard’: EPA chief Regan touts zero emission school buses at Wilmington teen center

EPA chief Michael Regan (left) talks with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and an unidentified woman at The Warehouse for teens in Wilmington. Behind them is the center's electric bus.

EPA chief Michael Regan (left) talks with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and an unidentified woman at The Warehouse for teens in Wilmington. Behind them is the center's electric bus. (Cris Barrish/WHYY News)

Clean energy and exposing children to the benefits of electric vehicles took center stage in Wilmington on Monday when the head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency visited a teen center.

“Hopefully we can use this as a beacon of light to get projects like this done all across the country,’’ Michael Regan said as he stood in front of a vehicle-to-grid bus at The Warehouse. The facility serves as an education, cultural and recreational center for city teenagers. Also parked in the lot was a hydrogen-powered big rig cab that hauled U.S. Sen. Chris Coons to the event.

A hydrogen-powered tractor is visible parked in a parking lot.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons arrived on this hydrogen-powered big rig. (Cris Barrish/WHYY News)

“Millions of children and teens ride the bus to and from school. For many, it’s a quintessential part of being a kid in America,” Regan said. “But traditional vehicles that rely on internal combustion engines emit toxic pollutants that expose our children to danger each and every day. Not only are these pollutants harmful to the environment, they are harmful to our children’s health.”

That’s why Regan is touting the $5 billion investment in new zero- and low-emission school buses that is part of the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure law that passed with bipartisan support last year.

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“We’ve come a long way from the early days of the horse drawn carriages, but folks, it’s now once again time to reimagine what riding the school bus means for our children,” Regan said.

“Transitioning to a clean transportation future means cleaner air and less pollution. It means  healthier kids and fewer school days missed. And it means good-paying American manufacturing and good-paying American jobs. Zero emission school buses can and will be the American standard.”

Logan Herring, who heads The Warehouse and the Reach Riverside initiative that’s working to transform this section of northeast Wilmington, said Regan’s visit can also serve to inspire children. Regan, appointed by President Biden in 2021, is the first Black man to lead the EPA. Regan also spent time Monday addressing students in EastSide Charter’s APEX Honors program, which holds its classes at The Warehouse.

Herring noted that the center’s zero-emission bus also sends power back to the electrical grid when it’s not in service. When it’s in use, transporting children to and from the center, the teens are seeing the latest technology in action.

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“And as an African-American leader in this community, to see another leader within our country, the first Black male, to be in his position to visit, to recognize the work that we’re doing on a local level, is a huge, huge event for us,” Herring said.

Regan said he’s impressed that The Warehouse is “introducing the technology to at-risk youth or youth that typically don’t get a seat at the table. Our youth are our future. So are these vehicles. Lots of jobs, lots of educational opportunities. It’s a wonderful example of what we’re funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

EPA chief Michael Regan listens to a speaker at The Warehouse.
EPA chief Michael Regan listens to a speaker at The Warehouse. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Regan also visited Wilmington’s renewable energy and biosolids facility as well Christina River Force Main, the wastewater transmission system for much of Delaware’s population.

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