On January 29th, House Democrats released the framework of the long-anticipated infrastructure package, which reflects the first of what will be a broad range of proposals aimed at repairing and rebuilding American infrastructure.
At a morning press conference to introduce the “Moving Forward” framework, chairs of three House Committees discussed the five-year, $760 billion proposal that would address the country’s most urgent infrastructure needs. The framework put forth by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Chair Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) would “bolster the Federal role in order to help communities around the country undertake transformative projects that are smarter, safer, and made to last,” according to a joint press release.
The framework outlines major investments in surface transportation, rail and transit systems, airports, ports and harbors, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, brownfields, and broadband.
Democratic leaders focused on the “greener” measures in the infrastructure frameworks in their press statements, highlighting provisions that would reduce emissions and combat climate change.
“There is no better way to strengthen our economy for the future than to modernize our badly aging infrastructure. This bold framework not only helps us rebuild our nation, it also combats climate change by reducing carbon emissions and moving us towards a clean energy future,” E&C Committee Chairman Pallone remarked. “It will also create good paying jobs, ensure that no community is left behind in the digital economy and help protect Americans’ drinking water. These are investments that we must make for the American people, and I look forward to moving this proposal forward.”
T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio also emphasized the strong climate change provisions in the package. “Our country has changed dramatically since the 1950s, yet people and goods are now literally stuck trying to move on transportation networks first developed nearly 70 years ago. It’s past time to for transformational investments to make our infrastructure smarter, safer, and resilient to climate change, or else we will keep throwing money at an antiquated system that is only holding us and our economy back,” Chair DeFazio said.
Republican reception to the package was cooler. The committee’s Republican ranking Member Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) remarked, “I may not agree with all of the principles in the majority’s outline, but as the Republican leader of this Committee, I expect to play a constructive role in the development of infrastructure bills before us this year, including expected surface transportation and water resources legislation. Any serious effort toward enacting infrastructure legislation must incorporate Republican principles as well. The time for partisan posturing from House Democrat Leadership is over. On this Committee, we know the recipe for success in addressing America’s infrastructure needs is through partnership, so let’s get to work.”
Of particular interest to NUCA, the framework includes the following provisions:
Clean Water — $50.5 Billion
• Addresses $270 Billion backlog in critical clean water needs by providing $40 billion to the State Revolving Fund
• Establishes minimum allocations for rural and small communities for water infrastructure investment authorities, and directs the newly-created EPA Municipal Ombudsman to provide technical, financial, and planning assistance to said communities.
• Funds water utility workforce development and apprenticeship programs.
Clean Energy— $34.3 Billion
• Invests in electric grid modernization to accommodate more renewable energy and to make the grid more secure, resilient and efficient.
• Encourages local communities to invest in energy efficient infrastructure including retrofitting and weatherizing buildings and funding energy efficiency and conservation projects to reduce carbon pollution and put people back to work.
• Strengthens existing energy supply infrastructure and expands renewable energy infrastructure in low-income and underserved communities to increase climate resiliency and reduce greenhouse gas pollution across the country.
• Supports the development of an electric vehicle charging network to facilitate the transition to zero emissions vehicles from coast to coast.
Broadband & Communications — $86 Billion
• Invests in expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban communities across the country – connecting Americans, creating strong small businesses, more jobs and strengthening economies in communities that have been left behind.
While there are other provisions NUCA will likely support, and others we will likely oppose, these provisions are certain to be priorities in future advocacy related to infrastructure legislation.