U.S. Senate Readies Surface Transportation Bill, Bipartisan Infrastructure Discussions Continue

On May 26, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 (STRA-21), the highway title of the surface transportation reauthorization. STRA-21 provides $303.5 billion for federal-aid highway programs for fiscal years (FY) 2022-2026, a 34 percent increase over current law.

It is important to note that while this bill is not the same as the “infrastructure” bill being discussed by the White House and Senate Republicans right now. Rather, this bill is the first step towards surface transportation reauthorization in the Senate.

It is possible that surface transportation will be rolled into a larger infrastructure package, but for right now, the two efforts are running parallel.

STRA-21 continues the current highway formula programs with funding increases, and authorizes new programs focused on bridge projects, climate change, and reconnecting communities. STRA-21 also invests more than $5 billion over five years in programs targeting the effects of climate change and provides $2.5 billion, over a five year period, for EV charging and other alternative fuel infrastructure, including hydrogen, natural gas, and propane.

Although STRA-21 represents the first steps in the Senate on surface transportation reauthorization, significant work remains. Additional Senate committees with jurisdiction over various transportation matters still need to draft their respective sections.

It is also unclear how quickly the legislation could move to the Senate floor and whether it will be combined with a larger infrastructure bill.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is set to consider their version of surface transportation reauthorization on June 9.

            Infrastructure Talks

The U.S. House and Senate will consider reauthorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act over the next month and continue negotiating a potential large-scale infrastructure package with the Biden Administration.

With a historic infrastructure package possible, it is imperative for Congress to hear from EMA member companies and ensure that small businesses are part of the conversation.

As EMA Members highlighted during our Virtual Fly In: Section 1303 of the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2 – 116th Congress) proposed creating an alternative fuel infrastructure grant program, which would provide funds for states to deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging and natural gas, propane, and hydrogen fueling infrastructure along designated alternative fuel corridors.

The Senate’s Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act includes similar language. As proposed, the program could authorize over two billion dollars in grants – all while placing small business energy marketers at a competitive disadvantage as award preference could be given to large companies with multiple locations along major transportation routes.

Further, the proposed language could allow utilities to access ratepayer funds to own and operate EV charging stations while also receiving federal grant funds for installation.

Ultimately, small businesses should be protected by dedicating a portion of federal grant money to small businesses and by including guardrails to ensure that utilities and non-utilities play on the same field.

EMA encourages our members to TAKE ACTION by sending a letter to their Congressional delegation.

Republican Infrastructure Offer

On May 27, Senate Republicans announced a $928 billion infrastructure counteroffer to the Biden Administration’s most recent $1.7 trillion counter offer. The GOP’s revised proposal is significantly higher than its initial $568 billion proposal.

The Republican proposal includes $4 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure under a broader $506 billion proposed investment in roads, bridges and “major projects.”  Read more here.

Also this week, Sen. Manchin expressed skepticism of the Biden Administration’s EV proposals, arguing that the private sector should bear more of the cost to expand EV charging infrastructure.

Manchin said: “What we can do is stimulate and mature the market quicker, but throwing $82 billion towards the private sector to sculpt it? […] I just said, ‘I don’t remember Henry Ford — when he built the Model T — that we went out and built filling stations for him.’ I don’t remember that happening. We should give them incentives and help them mature it. We’re willing to do it, but it shouldn’t cost as far as the debt to the nation.”

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