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Federal Infrastructure Policy and Funding Update: Week of November 14, 2022

We made it through another election cycle and for all the punditry, and fortune-telling on both sides of the aisle, the needle didn’t move much, and we are just about where we started.

Democrats have held the Senate and the republican majority in the House will be much less than expected. But with that majority, we’ll see new leadership in committees tasked with overseeing and appropriating funds for infrastructure but don’t expect to see a substantial shift in policy or funding priorities. The threat of repealing the Inflation Reduction Act is likely defused and our next big challenge, from an infrastructure perspective, is enacting a full budget (current continuing resolution expires December 16) and then raising the debt ceiling sometime in the first quarter of calendar year 2023.

That doesn’t mean we won’t see some fireworks during the lame duck session — the White House has expressed support for tacking on the Manchin Permitting bill to the must-pass defense authorization. That legislation is intended to accelerate environmental approvals for energy projects, codify One Federal Decision, among other things. If it becomes law, we’ll provide a deeper dive into what it says and what it means. In the meantime, we’ll see how divided this divided government will be after the first of the year. Instead of prognosticating our political future, let’s cover some of the latest news in the policy realm.

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Key Recent Policy and Funding Happenings

Happy Birthday, BIL!

First — Happy Birthday BIL!  One year ago this week, President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, making a $1.2 trillion investment in the nation’s infrastructure (and spurring a series of policy briefs and email updates from yours truly). To commemorate this milestone, the White House has released an interactive map that illustrates announced funding under the law as of October 25. The White House has also updated the State-by-State Fact Sheets to reflect the latest information regarding funding for each along with updated anticipated funding over the remaining 4 years of the IIJA. HDR is also celebrating one year of IIJA implementation highlighting work we’ve done to support clients in securing much needed federal support for their projects.

USDOT Funding

Speaking of securing funding, USDOT recently announced winners of the Port Infrastructure Development Program - $703 million to fund 41 port projects across the country. We’re still waiting on announced winners from a few other programs such as Mega, the Bridge Investment Program, and the Rural Surface Transportation Program. Before the end of the year, USDOT expects to issue Notices of Funding Opportunity for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail and RAISE.  

Presidential Actions on Climate Change

President Biden was in Egypt for 27th Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) and announced a new proposed rulemaking that would require certain federal contractors to disclose scope 1 and 2 emissions, at a minimum, with larger contractors also reporting on scope 3 emissions and setting science-based targets for reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

First, a primer on emissions courtesy of the EPA:

  • Scope 1 emissions are direct GHGs that occur from sources that are controlled or owned by an organization (e.g., emissions associated with fuel combustion in boilers, furnaces, vehicles).
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling.
  • Scope 3 emissions are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain. Scope 3 emissions include all sources not within an organization’s scope 1 and 2 boundary. The scope 3 emissions for one organization are the scope 1 and 2 emissions of another organization. For a graphic depicting the difference between Scope 1, 2 and 3 gases, visit WRI/WBCSD Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard, Figure 1.1.

According to the White House Fact Sheet: 

The proposed Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule provides a targeted, risk-based approach by focusing primarily on major Federal suppliers. Under the proposed rule, the largest suppliers including Federal contractors receiving more than $50 million in annual contracts would be required to publicly disclose Scope 1, Scope 2, and relevant categories of Scope 3 emissions, disclose climate-related financial risks, and set science-based emissions reduction targets. Federal contractors with more than $7.5 million but less than $50 million in annual contracts would be required to report Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. All Federal contractors with less than $7.5 million in annual contracts would be exempt from the rule. Small businesses with over $7.5 million in annual contracts would only be required to report Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions under the proposed rule.

Broadband

I spent the first part of the week in Boise attending Idaho’s Internet for All Local Coordination workshop. What a great event with lots of interesting and useful perspectives to keep in mind as states undertake their work to develop the five-year action plans for the BEAD Program. It just so happened that the workshop followed some big announcements from the Federal Communications Commission.

A year into implementation of the IIJA and the FCC is preparing to release updated broadband mapping that will determine how $40-plus billion dollars of BEAD funds will be allocated to states and territories. The updated broadband availability maps will illustrate where broadband service is offered. Once published, the public will have until middle of January 2023 to “challenge” the data on the map and by June 30, 2023, the National Telecommunications Information Administration expects to announce the funding amounts. It’s a lot of moving parts but they are important to ensure that the maps are correct because it could be the difference between a state getting millions of dollars.

In addition to the maps, the FCC launched a new grant program to promote the Affordable Connectivity Program, The Affordable Connectivity Program is a $14.2 billion FCC benefit program that helps ensure that qualifying low-income households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more. The ACP Outreach Grant Program has up to $70 million of competitive funding available, with at least $10 million going towards Tribal outreach. The program seeks to:

  • Expand and support diverse and impactful outreach efforts nationwide;
  • Strengthen outreach partners nationwide by empowering them to mobilize people and organizations to help raise awareness about the ACP; and
  • Increase ACP enrollment as a result of ACP Outreach Grant Program funded activities.

You can read the fact sheet , the Notice of Funding Opportunity, and the ACP Outreach Grant Program NOFO Frequently Asked Questions.

Finally, the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives released its inaugural Annual Report, detailing how the office is supporting greater broadband adoption in minority communities. The annual report summarizes OMBI’s current initiatives to support and build capacity in historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and minority serving institutions; outlines barriers to access for students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding anchor community; and provides recommendations to improve and expand digital access and adoption.

Eric Beightel | HDR | advisory services
Principal Infrastructure Policy/Environmental Strategist
Nathan Macek
Infrastructure Finance Director
Janet R. González Tudor
Transportation Advisory Services Director
Kathryn Roos
Strategic Consultant
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