The Senate recently approved both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the FY2022 budget resolution. The infrastructure bill includes, among other things, a five-year reauthorization of highway programs, as well as $7.5 billion for alternative fuel infrastructure grants, the bulk of which are likely to go to electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. The budget resolution unlocks a process whereby Democrats can pass an up to $3.5 trillion bill filled with Democratic priorities that can pass the Senate with a simple majority vote. Both bills have now been sent to the House of Representatives, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working to assuage both progressive and moderate members of her caucus. Although things remain fluid, we expect Congress this year to approve both the bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as a separate reconciliation bill that includes Democratic social welfare priorities as well as corporate and individual tax hikes and various "green" energy tax incentives.
House Democratic leaders struck a deal on Aug. 24 on President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar budget blueprint, putting the infrastructure agenda back on track. This allows the process to continue in the House, but it would be far from certain that things will progress smoothly. Expectations are that Congress will approve both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a reconciliation package this year, although the latter will probably be far less than $3.5 trillion.
The House vote paves the way for the reconciliation process, in which committees write the details of the budget framework into tax and spending legislation that the House and Senate will vote on this fall. Using reconciliation means Democrats can push it through the Senate without the threat of a Republican filibuster.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement committing to passing the infrastructure legislation by Sept. 27 and vowed to ensure that any Biden agenda bill the House takes up has sufficient support to pass the Senate.
Of the 10 moderate Democrats who were the "tip of the spear" on negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seven of them signed a letter that NATSO supported urging Congressional leadership to develop EV charging policies and incentives that are price-competitive and accommodate the real estate and business models of travel centers and fuel marketers. These lawmakers explicitly oppose policies that would allow EV charging infrastructure at Interstate rest areas, or policies that increase costs on all utility ratepayers to underwrite utility investments in charging stations.
It is unclear how many House Republicans would support the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has not yet advised his caucus on how to vote. Although he is likely to whip against the bill, even if it is not tied to the reconciliation package, many centrist Republicans in districts that President Biden carried in the last election worked directly with Senators to craft the infrastructure legislation, so this group may be inclined to support the bill. This would obviously give Pelosi more "wiggle room" to lose a handful of her own Democratic colleagues without compromising the bill's ultimate passage.
The initial text of the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the Senate included a provision that would have allowed EV chargers that were installed as part of the bill's grant program to be placed at Interstate rest areas, notwithstanding the law prohibiting commercial activities at rest areas. Several dozen phone calls and letters from travel center operators and fuel marketers throughout the country helped ensure that this provision was removed. It is unclear how aggressively House Democrats will seek to allow EV chargers at rest areas in the context of the reconciliation package. NATSO will continue to aggressively advocate against such policies.
In light of the amount of money that the federal government is likely to invest in EV charging and other alternative fuel infrastructure in the coming months, interested fuel retailers would be wise to begin planning to apply for federal grants that would cover the majority of the costs of installing this equipment. This is a complicated process and the decision to apply obviously entails various considerations and complexities; nevertheless given the amount of money that could be invested, companies would be wise to begin identifying consultants or outside counsel that can help navigate the grant application process. NATSO will provide additional details and information on these processes in the coming weeks once the prognosis / timing of the legislation's enactment become more clear.
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