Infrastructure continues to dominate the conversation in Washington, D.C. Over the last several weeks, Congress has begun to act with committees in both the House and Senate advancing initial versions of surface transportation reauthorization bills. Congress has not passed comprehensive surface transportation legislation since the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in 2015.
Yesterday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the INVEST in America Act out of committee. The bill was passed on a party line vote without Republican support. Unfortunately, the bill does not contain many positives for natural gas. The alternative fuels corridor grant program that would fund the buildout of charging and fueling infrastructure is limited to electric vehicles and hydrogen, and the bill eliminates federal grant funding for the purchase of natural gas buses. Republicans offered amendments during the markup that would have added permitting reform provisions, but the amendments were not adopted.
In contrast, on May 26, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) advanced its Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act (STRA) with bipartisan support. The bill includes several provisions that APGA supports. It would codify the permitting reform principles from the One Federal Decision Executive Order that streamline the process and reduce the timeframe for permitting major infrastructure projects. The bill also includes natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in the alternative fuels corridor grant program and directs the Department of Transportation to produce a report to guide future investments in those alternative vehicles. Finally, it creates an Appalachian Regional Energy Hub Initiative to fund projects related to ethane storage that would contribute to the region becoming a natural gas hub. The Senate bill is less comprehensive than the House version due to jurisdictional concerns. EPW does not have jurisdiction over transit programs, so it is expected that there will be additional legislation on that coming out of the Senate Banking Committee.
While it is exciting to see progress on infrastructure, it is still very early in the legislative process. Both these bills will need to receive a vote on the floor, where they may be subject to additional amendments. Assuming each receives enough votes to pass in their respective chambers, it is expected that the bills enter conference, where Senators and Representatives work to combine their respective bills into a package that can pass both chambers.
APGA staff will continue to monitor this legislation and engage with offices on Capitol Hill about priorities and the needs of members. APGA is also engaged with partners at NGVAmerica who are also advocating for the inclusion of NGVs in this legislation.
For questions about this article, please contact Emily Wong of APGA staff by phone at 202-470-4262 or by email at email@example.com