U.S. Senate Committee Holds Hearing On Highway Infrastructure

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing entitled: “Building Back Better: Investing in Transportation while Addressing Climate Change, Improving Equity, and Fostering Economic Growth and Innovation.”

Testifying before the Committee included: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Denver Michael Mayor Hancock, and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials President Victoria Sheehan.

Senate EPW Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) said in his opening statement; “Auto manufacturers are preparing to greatly expand their lines of electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles, but too often, drivers lack access to the charging or fueling stations they require. America needs to build corridors of charging stations and hydrogen fueling stations across this country. Now, the most challenging part of any discussion on transportation infrastructure—how are we going to pay for it? I’d suggest that those of us who use our nation’s roads, highways, and bridges have a responsibility to help pay for them.”

Ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) warned her colleagues against proceeding with a partisan infrastructure bill, referring implicitly to the House’s bill from last Congress, H.R. 2.

The Senator from West Virginia said, “The strong bipartisan support that exists for a surface transportation reauthorization bill and other infrastructure legislation should not extend to a multi-trillion dollar package that is stocked full of other ideologically-driven, one-size-fits-all policies that tie the hands of our states and our communities.”

She also warned against “partisan or lightning-rod pay-fors… that could sink a bill.”

Last Congress, the House Democrats approved a comprehensive infrastructure bill known as “The Moving Forward Act” (H.R. 2) and are expected to reintroduce similar legislation soon.

Click Here for a complete breakdown of provisions important to energy marketers that was passed along party lines in the House last year.

The Senate did not consider H.R. 2, although the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed its own surface transportation bill last year, S. 2302.

Congress eventually approved a short-term reauthorization of surface transportation programs into September 2021 to give it time to develop an infrastructure bill that can pass both chambers of Congress.

Senate democrats, now in the majority, could turn to budget reconciliation (needing only 51 Senate votes) to approve it in the new Congress.

Using budget reconciliation tactics still faces a tough hill to climb given that Senator Manchin (D-WV) and other Senate moderates are unlikely to give Senate liberals a free ride to pass an aggressive green infrastructure package.

Senator Manchin (D-WV) recently said that a value-added tax (VAT) could be the “only tool” available for Congress to pay for an infrastructure package instead of hiking motor fuels taxes, however, he acknowledged that it would be difficult to increase taxes during a pandemic.

EMA is currently urging lawmakers to protect small businesses by ensuring that at least one-third of Alternative Energy Grant Program funding (included in both the House and Senate highway bills last year) to be dedicated to small, independent fuel marketing businesses with less than 500 employees who can diversify and ensure consumers pay a competitive price for EV charging and other alternative energy sources.

Furthermore, EMA is urging Congress to prevent utilities who use ratepayer funds to expand EV infrastructure from participating in the grant program as well as uphold Congress’s original prohibition of commercial services at interstate areas.

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