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Federal Infrastructure Policy and Funding Update: Week of June 27, 2022

Thanks for reading our Federal Infrastructure Policy and Funding Update for the week of June 27, 2022. We took last week off due to the relative inaction in Washington D.C. regarding infrastructure policy. But it seems that the White House and the agencies decided to make up for a slow week by making news in several areas. If you are not a current Federal Infrastructure Policy and Funding Update subscriber, subscribe now.

Key Recent Policy and Funding Happenings

President Biden Announces Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment

The White House announced a new Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. The Partnership is comprised of the G7 nations with the stated intent to “deliver game-changing projects to close the infrastructure gap in developing countries, strengthen the global economy and supply chains, and advance U.S. national security. Although not exactly domestic infrastructure policy, the agreement has the potential to create additional opportunities for U.S.-based infrastructure firms as the U.S. aims to mobilize $200 billion for PGII over the next five years through grants, federal financing, and leveraging private sector investments.

President Biden issued a Memorandum to the heads of federal agencies detailing the approach this administration will take to international infrastructure development — detailing four primary pillars of the agreement:

  • Tackling the climate crisis and bolstering global energy security through investments in climate-resilient infrastructure, transformational energy technologies, and developing clean energy supply chains across the fully integrated life cycle, from the responsible mining of metals and critical minerals; to low-emissions transportation and hard infrastructure; to investing in new global refining, processing, and battery manufacturing sites; to deploying proven, as well as innovative, scalable technologies in places that do not yet have access to clean energy.
  • Developing, expanding and deploying secure information and communications technology networks and infrastructure to power economic growth and facilitate open digital societies — from working with trusted vendors to provide 5G and 6G digital connectivity, to supporting access to platforms and services that depend upon an open, interoperable, secure and reliable internet and mobile networks with sound cybersecurity.
  • Advancing gender equality and equity — from care infrastructure that increases opportunities for economic participation by women, to improved water and sanitation infrastructure that addresses gender gaps in unpaid work and time use — to boost the global economic recovery by ensuring that half the population is not forced to sit on the sidelines.
  • Developing and upgrading the infrastructure of health systems and contributing to global health security through investments in patient-centered health services and the health workforce; vaccine and other essential medical product manufacturing; and disease surveillance and early warning systems, including safe and secure labs. Addressing the current pandemic and preventing and preparing for the next one is crucial to U.S. economic and national security.

Projects identified as examples of the PGII include:

  • $500 million provided to First Solar, based in Temple, Arizona, to support its vertically integrated photovoltaic solar module manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu, India.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation launching MOMENTUM, a global technical assistance and capacity building program that promotes, high-quality, safe, sustainable, innovative, resilient and equitable transportation infrastructure.

White House Launches New Federal-State Offshore Wind Partnership

The White House convened a meeting with eleven governors from states along the Atlantic coast to launch a new Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership that will accelerate the growing offshore wind industry. The Partnership announced commitments to collaborate on expanding key elements of the offshore wind supply chain and advancing a National Offshore Wind Supply Chain Roadmap. These actions are supporting the President’s stated goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. As part of the announcement, the federal government committed to:

  • Facilitate timely and effective permitting and environmental reviews and advance a pipeline of projects and lease sales.
  • Use the lease auction process to incentivize investment in the U.S. offshore wind supply chain.
  • Leverage federal funding opportunities to promote a U.S.-based offshore wind supply chain.

The first bullet is perhaps the most important as the lease sales for offshore wind are but a first step in deploying turbines to generate the electricity. After committing millions of dollars, developers must still plan, design and seek approval to construct and install the equipment, meaning that initial investment only buys them a seat at the table and provides no guarantee of successful deployment. An accelerated environmental review process can help provide greater predictability and encourage even more investment in the sector.

A public webinar is planned for June 28, 2022, by the Department of Energy to discuss offshore wind transmission.

Department of Commerce Awards Nearly $7.7 Million to Tribal Groups Seeking to Develop Community Broadband Plans

Nine grants, totaling more than $7.7 million were awarded in six states — Alaska, California, Louisiana, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Washington, to fund projects that promote high-speed internet use and adoption. This will enable tribal communities to access and fully utilize resources that will connect them to education, healthcare, employment and more.

President Biden Calls for Three-Month Federal Gas Tax Holiday

As the White House continues to develop strategies to combat historic inflation, the President recently announced his support for a three-month suspension of the federal gas tax. Current federal fuel taxes are 18 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24 cents per gallon of diesel. Because the federal fuel taxes collected at the pump are the primary source of funding for the Highway Trust Fund, the President also asked Congress to use other revenue sources to shore up the Trust Fund.

However, the proposal has not gained much traction in Congress with Speaker Pelosi issuing a “wait and see” statement and a CNBC report cited a professor at Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania stating that a gas-tax holiday might save the average driver roughly $50 but would cost the U.S. Treasury nearly $20 billion if the gas tax holiday ran through the end of the year.

Federal Highway Administration Releases Shared Micromobility Equity Primer

A recent paper from FHWA discusses strategies for shared micromobility to advance transportation equity, including:

  1. Safe spaces for micromobility use, encouraging jurisdictions to invest in dedicated physical spaces or implementing roadway safety countermeasures to improve travel viability of micromobility solutions with vehicles.
  2. Connected transportation networks, linking public transit with shared micromobility options, extending the transit service area and helping people reach essential destinations, including access economic opportunities.
  3. Planning for equity with micromobility as part of the transportation planning process by engaging stakeholders in visioning, goal setting, needs assessments, and strategic planning efforts to understand the community’s needs and priorities and ways shared micromobility can improve travel along existing transportation networks in a way that aligns with community preferences.
  4. Education for safety to help reduce the need for enforcement and making shared micromobility systems safer and more equitable for all users.
  5. Partnerships for shared mobility that ensure micromobility services complement and enhance the existing transportation network.
  6. Continuous evaluation and monitoring to evaluate the effectiveness of shared micromobility programs holistically and help ensure that they are meeting programmatic goals.
  7. Developing micromobility regulations and permitting regimes that establish an operating area, specify device speed and indicate the data that shared micromobility operators should provide to jurisdictions.
  8. Provide non-digital access and options for unbanked individuals, making shared mobility accessible to all users, regardless of whether they have smartphones, bank accounts, or credit or debit cards.
  9. Introduce discounted fee structures to ensure that devices are available to all.
  10. Offer adaptive devices for individuals with physical disabilities who may be unable to ride traditional stand-up scooters or bicycles.
  11. Use rebalancing or relocating strategies to ensure that devices are available to underserved and disadvantaged.
  12. Integrating equity considerations into hiring and training practices by shared micromobility operators.

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