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Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

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  • Nov 9, 2021
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This post will be short but important. The title is a major piece of legation that passed recently. It required several days thereafter to find a short and concise summary of this bill (the bill itself is over 1,000 pages long), but I finally found one (referenced here).[1]

On November 5, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill that will make historic investments in core infrastructure priorities including roads and bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports, the electric grid, and broadband.

The legislation, titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”), will have major implications for states and municipalities of all sizes, as well as the entities involved in responding to governments’ needs for hard and cyber infrastructure.

Improvements to roadways, ports and mass transit are the focus of the legislation and the majority of the funding is targeted at these traditional hard infrastructure projects. U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has championed the massive infrastructure bill and pushed for its passage.

How will the money be distributed?

Answer: The IIJA contains formulaic allocations of funds as well as earmarks and competitive grants. Some categories and sub-categories contain both non-competitive and competitive grants.

NON-COMPETITIVE FUNDING ALLOCATION PROCESSES

Formulas dictated by the bill are based on criteria like state population, or, potentially for specific items, users (ex: transit funds potentially determined by ridership)

Once the money is directed to the states, the local bureaucrats are able to make the important decisions about which projects deserve the funding.

States can also decide to allocate some of the funding to the county or city governments within their state

EARMARKS AND COMPETITIVE GRANT PROCESSES

Earmarks override state plans for how infrastructure funds should be spent. "Earmarks come out of the money that the state was going to get anyway." 

Localities must compete for Competitive Grants via an application process. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Discretionary Grant Process is officially outlined on their website.

Generally, the award of competitive grants can be influenced by advocates who confer with decision makers in the Executive Branch about the merits of certain proposals.

Question: Which projects will qualify for funding?

Answer: The bill details specific funding streams for the specific projects included in its provisions. Categories of projects included in the $550 billion in new spending are below.

Scribe’s Comment: Items that significantly relate to energy and/or the environment are highlighted.

Roads, Bridges, & Major Projects: $110B — Funds new, dedicated grant program to replace and repair bridges and increases funding for the major project competitive grant programs. Preserves the 90/10 split of federal highway aid to states.

Passenger and Freight Rail: $66B — Provides targeted funding for the Amtrak National Network for new service and dedicated funding to address repair backlogs. Increases funding for freight rail and safety.

Safety and Research: $11B — Addresses highway, pedestrian, pipeline, and other safety areas (highway safety accounts for the bulk of this funding).

Public Transit: $39.2B — Funds nation’s transit system repair backlog, which includes buses, rail cars, transit stations, track, signals, and power systems. This allocation also includes money to create new bus routes and increase accessibility to public transit for those with physical mobility challenges.

Broadband: $65B — Funds grants to states for broadband deployment and other efforts to address access issues in rural areas and low-income communities. Expands eligible private activity bond projects to include broadband infrastructure.

Airports: $25B — Increases Airport Improvement grant amounts for runways, gates, & taxiways and authorizes a new Airport Terminal Improvement program.

Ports and Waterways: $17.4B — Provides funding for waterway and coastal infrastructure, inland waterway improvements, port infrastructure, and land ports of entry through the Army Corps, DOT, Coast Guard, the GSA, and DHS.

Water Infrastructure: $54B — Provides a $15 billion for lead service line replacement and $10 billion to address PFAS in water, in addition to other items.

Scribe’s Comment: PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s because of their useful properties. There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others.

One common characteristic of concern of PFAS is that many break down very slowly and can build up in people, animals, and the environment over time. PFAS can be present in our water, soil, air, and food as well as in materials found in our homes or workplaces… Current scientific research suggests that exposure to high levels of certain PFAS may lead to adverse health outcomes…[2]

Power and Grid: $65B — Funds grid reliability and resiliency projects and support for a Grid Development Authority; critical minerals and supply chains for clean energy technology; key technologies like carbon capture, hydrogen, direct air capture, and energy efficiency; and energy demonstration projects from the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020.

Resiliency: $46B — Funds cybersecurity projects to address critical infrastructure needs, flood mitigation, wildfire, drought, coastal resiliency, waste management, ecosystem restoration, and weatherization.

Low-Carbon and Zero-Emission School Buses & Ferries: $7.5B — Funds and authorizes the adoption of low-carbon and zero-emission school buses, including through hydrogen, propane, LNG, compressed natural gas, biofuel, and electric technologies. Provides support for a pilot program for low emission ferries and rural ferry systems.

Electric Vehicle Charging: $7.5B — Funds alternative fuel corridors and a national build out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The federal funding will have a particular focus on rural and/or disadvantaged communities.

Reconnecting Communities: $1B — Provides dedicated funding for planning, design, demolition, and reconstruction of street grids, parks, or other infrastructure (funding is especially targeted at infrastructure which is deteriorating due to age).

Addressing Legacy Pollution: $21B — Funds to clean up brownfield and superfund sites, reclaim abandoned mine lands, and plug orphan oil and gas wells, improving public health and creating good-paying jobs.

 

[1] The National Law Review, H.R. 3684: “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act”, Nov 8, 2021, https://www.natlawreview.com/article/hr-3684-infrastructure-investment-and-jobs-act

[2] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS,” https://www.epa.gov/pfas/our-current-understanding-human-health-and-environmental-risks-pfas

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