The U.S. House of Representatives on July 1 voted 221 to 201 to pass the INVEST in America Act, a five-year surface transportation reauthorization.
The legislation dedicates $343 billion to roads, bridges and safety, $109 billion to transit, and $95 billion to passenger and freight rail. It would also commit $117 billion to drinking water infrastructure and over $51 billion to wastewater infrastructure.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) reportedly has urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to merge major parts of the INVEST in America Act, along with existing Senate committee reauthorization measures, into the infrastructure framework put forth last week by President Biden and a group of bipartisan Senators.
If the surface transportation reauthorization moves through regular order, it ultimately would need to be conferenced with a Senate reauthorization package.
Electric Vehicle Charging:
NATSO along with the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and SIGMA opposed the INVEST in America Act because the final measure contained provisions that would carve out an exception for electric vehicle (EV) charging to the longstanding federal prohibition on the sale of food, fuel and other commercial services at rest areas and on the Interstate right-of-way.
The associations also voiced strong objections to last-minute provisions added by the Energy and Commerce Committee that would award rebates to public utilities that also utilize rate payer dollars to invest in electric vehicle charging stations, effectively allowing them to “double dip.”
[Fuel Retailers, Truckstops Oppose Provisions in INVEST in America Act that Undermine Investments in EV Charging]
The House considered 115 amendments, many voted on en bloc, but ultimately did not vote on Amendments #70 and #71 offered by Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Ron Kind (D-WI), Peter Meijer (R-MI) and Tom Reed (R-NY) that would have removed the harmful provisions.
The amendments also would have directed Congress to study the effect that commercial services at rest areas would have on off-highway businesses and local communities while also allowing states to offer EV charging at park and ride facilities.
NATSO appreciates all of the efforts made by NATSO members leading up to the House vote to encourage their Members of Congress to support Amendments #70 and #71.
The associations applauded the leadership of Rep. Larsen, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, along with the bipartisan group of cosponsors, for offering amendments #70 and #71 to H.R. 3684.
"We are extraordinarily grateful to Congressman Larsen and his staff for their leadership throughout this process," said David Fialkov, NATSO's Executive Vice President of Government Affairs. "Congressman Larsen understands that the existing nationwide network of fuel retailing locations represents the best opportunity to quickly and efficiently bring charging options to market. If Congressman Larsen's amendment came to a vote on the House floor, it would have passed. It's unfortunate that House leaders chose not to allow this bipartisan compromise to see the light of day."
In a statement to media, the associations said that while rebates and other funding programs have a role to play in furthering EV charging investments, the structure of the programs in H.R. 3684 will undercut private sector investment in EV charging while saddling low-income electricity ratepayers with the costs of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
H.R. 3684 does not include sufficient guardrails to facilitate an open and competitive market for EV charging and fails to protect and provide fairness to all electricity consumers.
The organizations think that federal dollars for EV charging should ensure that investor-owned utilities are unable to increase the electricity rates of all their customers – regardless of income – to underwrite investments in EV charging equipment.
That unfair funding method combined with federal funds that allow double-dipping of funding for the same infrastructure and the punitive demand charges that utilities impose on private sector operators of EV charging statements make it impossible for the private sector to successfully invest in charging technology.
On June 24, 17 Democratic House Members, representing a variety of caucuses in the Party, sent a letter to House leadership encouraging these guardrails to be in place. House leadership, however, disregarded this letter.
The INVEST In America Act would establish a “Clean Corridors” program to provide funds for the acquisitions and installation of EV charging and hydrogen infrastructure. Eligible entities would be required to consider the proximity of existing off-highway travel centers, fuel retailers, and small businesses to EV charging infrastructure.
NATSO supports efforts to develop an alternative fuel corridor grant program and expand the adoption of alternative fuels, including electricity. As such, NATSO is aggressively seeking to ensure that as much of these dollars as possible go to businesses that have on-site amenities to which drivers are accustomed. With thousands of established locations crisscrossing the nation, truckstops, travel plazas and off-highway fuel retailers are well suited to replicate today’s fueling experience for drivers of EVs while ensuring that drivers of electric-powered cars will not suffer from range anxiety.
The INVEST in America Act was amended in committee to ensure that grant recipients allocated dollars to entities with available onsite amenities for vehicle operators, including restrooms or food facilities.
An amendment offered by Deborah Ross (N.C.) establishes a working group to make recommendations on the development, adoption, and integration of light and heavy duty electric vehicles into the transportation and energy systems of the United States.
The INVEST in America Act would make it more difficult for states to toll, including repealing certain tolling pilot programs and establishing new tolling guardrails for states.
Specifically, it would repeal the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP), which permits three states to collect tolls on existing Interstate highways for the purposes of reconstructing or rehabilitating Interstate Highway corridors. NATSO and the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates have long-advocated for repeal of the ISRRPP. The pilot program is more than 20 years old and no state has ever successfully implemented the program due to strong public opposition to tolling.
The INVEST in America Act also would replace the Value Pricing Pilot, which permits designated states to deploy variable tolls to address traffic congestion, with a new congestion pricing program and establishes new restrictions on what qualifies for congestion pricing. Under the INVEST in America Act, states would have to apply for tolling authority, taking into consideration congestion and air quality impacts as well as economic impacts.
The bill does not include a prohibition on truck-only tolls, nor does it set limits on what types of bridges can be tolled. Trucking groups have been advocating for such limits as states like Rhode Island and Pennsylvania seek to toll bridges as a way to circumvent existing federal tolling law.
The INVEST in America Act would set aside funds for states, public agencies and local governments to construct commercial parking on the Federal Highway System.
The INVEST in America Act allocates $250 million dollars for each of the fiscal years 2023 through 2026. (Moving Forward, by comparison, allocated $125 million in its first year and increased funds each year up to $175 million for 2025.)
The bill specifies that states could utilize funds awarded under the program to put in commercial truck parking adjacent to private commercial truckstops or travel plazas and that grant recipients may partner with a private entity to carry out an eligible project.
NATSO worked closely with Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL), who introduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, which was ultimately incorporated into the INVEST in America Act, to ensure that grant recipients could partner with truckstops and travel plazas. NATSO thinks that to the extent that the federal government allocates designated funds for truck parking such partnerships should be prioritized because the private sector provides 90 percent of the nation’s commercial truck parking.
Eligible entities must agree not to charge for parking constructed with the grant money.
NATSO has long maintained that the best way to address any truck parking capacity concerns is for motor carriers to negotiate truck parking in their contractual relationships with truckstops and travel plazas.
Because the private sector provides 90 percent of the nation’s commercial truck parking capacity, NATSO also has long advocated for the federal and state Departments of Transportation to remove barriers to private sector investment in truck parking capacity.
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