The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to take up the nearly $500 billion surface transportation bill known as the INVEST in America Act June 17, with lawmakers expected to offer more than 100 amendments during one of their first virtual mark ups.
Many of those amendments are expected to come from Republican committee members, who have said that they weren’t involved in drafting the legislation and that the bill omits six infrastructure principles adopted by the committee earlier this year.
The base legislation does not amend provisions banning rest area commercialization, and would make it more difficult to install tolls at existing Interstates. However, among the many amendments to be considered June 17, is one by Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., that seeks to permit electric vehicle charging at Interstate rest areas, which would ultimately undermine the longstanding prohibition on the sale of commercial services at Interstate rest areas.
NATSO supports smart policies to encourage investment in electric vehicle charging and thinks the best way to increase electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the United States is through private sector investment by businesses that currently serve the motoring public.
The best way to accelerate EV adoption and limit range anxiety for electric vehicles users is to foster a dynamic, competitive marketplace for EV fueling at the thousands of travel centers, gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, and hotels located in close proximity to an Interstate. This would ensure that electric vehicle charging stations are available to the public similar to traditional refueling.
Permitting EV charging stations at Interstate rest areas (where government-sanctioned monopolies could operate in direct competition with the private sector but from an advantaged location on the Interstate right-of-way) would discourage private sector investment in that infrastructure.
NATSO earlier this year unveiled a partnership with ChargePoint to create a National Highway Charging Collaborative. The Collaborative will deploy charging at more than 4,000 travel plazas and fuel stops in the next decade to significantly increase access to charging as EV adoption accelerates.
Heading into the mark up, NATSO continues to advocate for changes that would make several provisions more optimal for fuel retailers, including the alternative fuel corridor grant program.
The House bill’s alternative fuel corridor grant program would provide $350 million per year for grants for electric vehicle charging or hydrogen refueling infrastructure but neglects to include compressed natural gas.
The House bill also currently explicitly permits electric utilities to be the beneficiaries of electric vehicle charging infrastructure grants, even if they are already using ratepayer funds to underwrite those investments. Private sector investment in charging infrastructure would diminish if a utility were allowed to "double-dip" by billing all their customers more money to pay for electric vehicle charging infrastructure while also taking taxpayer money for the same projects.
NATSO also thinks the House bill should require grant beneficiaries to contract with private sector companies to install and manage refueling infrastructure. It currently permits this, but does not require it.
Also of importance to NATSO members, H.R. 2 would establish a $250 million grant program for state DOTs to use to enhance truck parking capacity. State DOTs are already permitted to use their federal matching funds to construct truck parking capacity, including at rest areas, but generally choose not to and instead use the money for other priorities.
The legislation permits but does not require grant recipients – which will by and large be state and local governments – to partner with the private sector to carry out the project. Rep. Mike Bost introduced an amendment that would prohibit eligible entities from charging fees for truck parking projects funded under the grant program.
NATSO continues to urge lawmakers to prioritize private sector truckstops as optimal locations for truck parking expansion.
The INVEST in America Act, which is tentatively scheduled for a full House vote July 1, ultimately will need to be conferenced with the Senate surface transportation bill. Current surface transportation law is set to expire Sept. 30, which means Congress will either need to pass a short-term extension or pass a comprehensive reauthorization before the election.
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