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Federal Infrastructure Policy and Funding Update: Week of May 31, 2022

The policy and funding newsletter took a brief hiatus as we completed work travel and observed Memorial Day. We honor all of the members of our armed forces who gave the ultimate sacrifice defending this great nation. You are forever in our hearts. 

On the infrastructure policy front, Congress and the agencies had a few slow weeks. Perhaps they recognized that our HDR team was on the road or perhaps they were exhausted by all of the work product they pushed out over the last several weeks. Regardless, a slow news week gives us a chance to catch up a little bit. Below are summaries and links of noteworthy happenings from the federal agencies. If you are not a current Federal Infrastructure Policy and Funding Update subscriber, subscribe now.

Key Recent Policy and Funding Happenings

Environmental Justice News 

Earlier in May, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice announced a comprehensive enforcement strategy to advance environmental justice. This approach includes restoring Supplemental Environmental Projects, which EPA’s enforcement program has used to provide environmental and/or public health benefits to communities harmed by environmental violations. 

The White House also released an interim American Rescue Plan Equity Report which covers 32 different American Rescue Plan programs that represent nearly $900 billion or 60 percent of American Rescue Plan funds. 

More recently, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the creation of a new Office of Environmental Justice. This new office will support HHS efforts to improve health in disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations across the country.  

“The blunt truth is that many communities across our nation — particularly low-income communities and communities of color — continue to bear the brunt of pollution from industrial development, poor land use decisions, transportation, and trade corridors,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. ”Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention. That’s why HHS is establishing the Office of Environmental Justice.”

It remains to be seen how the HHS Office of Environmental Justice will lead other federal agencies in the evaluation and consideration of localized and/or cumulative health effects on disadvantaged communities, but Secretary Becerra’s quote appears to leave that door open. 

White House Releases Tribal Playbook – Announces “Massive New Tribal Funding”

The White House released a Tribal Playbook, very similar and look and feel to the Infrastructure Playbook released earlier this year. The Fact Sheet that accompanies the playbook describes $13 billion in tribal investments that cover programs including: 

  • Fulfilling Tribal Water Settlements 
  • Powering Unelectrified Tribal Buildings 
  • Dam Safety Programs in Tribal Communities 
  • Tribal Water systems 
  • Drought Resilience 
  • Watershed Infrastructure Projects 
  • Tribal Climate Reslience 
  • Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund 
  • Great Lakes Restoration 
  • Tribal Internet 

Notices of Funding Opportunities Announced 

Before our break, U.S. Department of Transportation published the Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Safe Streets and Roads for All Program with applications due September 15, 2022.  Eligible activities under the program include: 

  • Developing or updating a comprehensive Safety Action Plan 
  • Conducting planning, design, and development activities in support of a Safety Action Plan 
  • Carrying out projects and strategies identified in a Safety Action Plan. 

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also published a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization Grant Program. Applications for this program are due by July 25, 2022 with $196 million available under this NOFO. 

USDOT also updated the schedule for future NOFOS. Notably, the Bridge Discretionary Program is now slated for June. 

New Port Envoy and MARAD Administrator Named

The White House and the USDOT announced that Retired General Stephen R. Lyons will replace John D. Porcari as the Port and Supply Chain Envoy to the Biden-Harris Administration Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force. Porcari was formerly the Deputy Secretary of Transportation during the Obama administration and had held the envoy position since August of 2021. General Lyons will assume the role from Mr. Porcari, and will work with USDOT, the National Economic Council, ports, rail, trucking, and other private companies across the supply chains to address bottlenecks, speed up the movement of goods, and help lower costs. Good luck, General Lyons! 

I worked closely with Mr. Porcari in previous positions and thank him for his continued service to this country and wish him continued success in his next adventure. 

In addition to naming a new Port Envoy, USDOT also announced Rear Admiral Ann Phillips as the 20th Administrator of the Maritime Administration (MARAD). Rear Admiral Phillips is the first woman to lead MARAD as administrator. Congratulations!

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