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VP Kamala Harris stops in St. Cloud to discuss electric vehicles

The vice president went to transit bus manufacturer New Flyer of America to talk about electric vehicles and the future of clean energy.

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Vice President Kamala Harris was in St. Cloud Thursday to discuss the future of public transportation.

NFI Group announced the VP would visit the New Flyer of America's facility in St. Cloud to "highlight" the current administration's commitment to zero-emission public transportation.

"Every year, gas-powered buses add millions of tons of pollution to our atmosphere, which further accelerates the climate crisis," Harris said. "But there's a solution to all this – and that solution is parked right over there — these buses. Electric buses."

New Flyer, "the largest heavy-duty transit bus manufacturer in North America," according to the company, is the manufacturer of the Xcelsior CHARGE NG, a zero-emission vehicle that is primarily battery-electric, and "the most advanced electric bus on the market today."

Harris called the vehicle a "model of American innovation."

"Minnesota, this is a transformative moment," she said. "The climate crisis has presented a historic challenge to our nation and to the world. It also presents a historic opportunity to create new jobs; to drive new innovation; to generate prosperity in all communities."

Harris also thanked state leaders for their work to combat the climate crisis, calling Governor Tim Walz a "true champion" and "partner" to the Biden administration on the issue.

"As you all know, earlier this week, he signed a law that will make Minnesota's electricity carbon-free by 2040. That's a big deal," she said.

This visit is part of a post-State of the Union "blitz," where President Biden and his Cabinet scheduled visits to 20 states this week. 

But this wasn't the first visit to St. Cloud by a current member of the Biden administration. In 2009, then-Vice President Biden spoke from the same facility.

"At the time, here at this plant, you were producing cutting-edge, hybrid transit buses, and then-Vice President Biden said, and I'll quote, 'This company is an example of the future.'"

She added, "Here in St. Cloud, you are not just building better buses, you are building a better America."

In a statement, Matt Lelou, a welder at New Flyer and president of its labor union, CWA Local 7304, said:

“We were so excited to have met with Vice President Harris about the importance of our work manufacturing electric vehicles, and we thank her and President Biden for showing their support for our good, union jobs.

The workers at our New Flyer facility in St. Cloud are highly-trained and essential to driving our country into the future of electric buses. Thanks to our union and the ability it gives us to have a voice on the job, we are also well-paid and maintain a good work-life balance. As our country modernizes its public transportation fleet, it’s critical we create more good union jobs in the process and ensure professionally trained workers are leading the way.”

Biden was in Tampa, Florida, Thursday, where he reiterated his vow to protect Social Security and Medicare. 

Also on Thursday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited Carson City, Nevada, to announce an investment in battery manufacturing, while transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg celebrated a $150 million grant to replace a highway bridge in Lake Charles, Indiana.

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