Federal Infrastructure Policy and Funding Update: Week of September 26, 2022
We’ve had a slew of funding announcements from the Departments of Transportation and Energy, as well as updated guidance on broadband planning and a new office for environmental justice at the Environmental Protection Agency. Work continues at the agencies to implement the two infrastructure bills while Congress this week tries to figure out how to keep the lights on. I was all raring to go with a deep dive into Senator Manchin’s Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022 which offered some modest changes to the environmental review process for energy projects but it appears that the bill will not make it onto the continuing resolution as promised. Despite this missed opportunity to return to my project delivery roots, there is plenty of action in the federal space summarized below.
Before we get into the policy pieces, shanah tovah to our Jewish friends who celebrated Rosh Hashanah this week. I hope that your New Year is filled with blessings.
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Key Recent Policy and Funding Happenings
- U.S. Department of Transportation Updates
- Interagency Agreement to Lower Transportation Emissions and Consumer Costs, Bolster Domestic Energy Security
- U.S. Department of Energy Updates
- National Telecommunications and Information Administration Broadband Updates
- EPA Announces New Office for Environmental Justice
- Inflation Reduction Act Snapshot
- Advisory Services Brief: Inflation and Infrastructure Delivery — Drivers and Solutions
U.S. Department of Transportation Updates
USDOT Releases Notices of Funding Opportunity for Transportation Technology
The Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program, created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs At, provides up to $100 million in grants annually through at least 2026 to fund projects that use data and technology to address transportation issues related to:
- Vehicle technology including automation and connectivity
- Systems innovation, like delivery and logistics, traffic signals, smart grid, and data integration
- New ways to monitor and manage infrastructure such as sensors and Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration launched the Advanced Transportation Technology and innovation (ATTAIN) program to promote advanced technologies to improve safety and reduce travel times for drivers and transit riders and that can serve as national examples.
Applications for both the SMART and ATTAIN programs must be submitted by 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.
USDOT Announces Infrastructure Grant Awards (INFRA and RR Xing)
On the other end of the grant spectrum, USDOT announced grants totaling $1.5 billion for 26 transportation projects across the country. The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program provides grant funding for highway, multimodal freight and rail projects that will make the nation’s transportation systems safer and more resilient, eliminate supply chain bottlenecks, and improve critical freight movements.
During this grant cycle, USDOT issued a combined Notice of Funding Opportunity for the INFRA, MEGA and Rural Surface Transportation Grant program. Selected projects for the latter two programs are not yet known but DOT indicates announcements are forthcoming in the next few months.
FHWA also announced the selection of five projects with grants totaling $59 million for projects in California, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania to improve safety at highway-rail crossings.
USDOT Approves all 50 Statewide Electrification Plans
Rounding out the good news from USDOT, the Department announced that all fifty states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico satisfied the requirements of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program and are approved to access the nearly $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2022 and 2023 formula funds. The funds may be used for:
- Upgrade of existing and construction of new EV charging infrastructure
- Operation and maintenance costs of these charging stations
- Installation of on-site electrical service equipment
- Community and stakeholder engagement
- Workforce development activities
- EV charging station signage
- Data sharing activities
- Related mapping analysis and activities
Interagency Agreement to Lower Transportation Emissions and Consumer Costs, Bolster Domestic Energy Security
I didn’t write the headline — that was from the Department of Energy announcement of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Reminiscent of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities established during the Obama administration, this new interagency effort will work to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation sector and to ensure resilient and accessible mobility options for all Americans.”
The MOU commits the agencies to release — within 90 days — a comprehensive blueprint for decarbonizing the transportation sector that will help guide future policy decisions, as well as research, development, demonstration, and deployment in the public and private sectors.
U.S. Department of Energy Updates
$4.9 Billion Available to Deploy Infrastructure Necessary to Manage and Store Carbon Pollution
The DOE announced nearly $4.9 billion through multiple funding opportunities to bolster investments in the carbon management industry and to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere through power generation and industrial operations.
The three funding opportunities are:
- Carbon Storage Validation and Testing – The program supports the Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) Initiative, managed by the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), and provides up to $2.25 billion to support the development of new and expanded large-scale, commercial carbon storage projects with capacities to store 50 or more million metric tons of CO2, along with associated CO2 transport infrastructure. Projects will focus on detailed site characterization, permitting, and construction stages of project development under CarbonSAFE. Full Funding Opportunity Announcement
- Carbon Capture Demonstration Projects Program – DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), in partnership with FECM, will manage the Carbon Capture Demonstration Projects Program. The program provides up to $2.54 billion to develop six integrated carbon capture, transport, and storage demonstration projects that can be readily replicated and deployed at fossil energy power plants and major industrial sources of CO2, such as cement, pulp and paper, iron and steel, and certain types of chemical production facilities. The FOA released today provides up to $189 million for up to 20 integrated front-end engineering design studies, with a second FOA expected later in 2022 to support detailed design, construction, and operation of carbon capture projects, as well as transport and storage of the captured CO2. Full FOA
- Carbon Dioxide Transport Engineering and Design – FECM will manage the Carbon Dioxide Transport, Front-End Engineering and Design FOA which provides up to $100 million to design regional CO2 pipeline networks to safely transport captured CO2 from key sources to centralized locations. Projects will focus on carbon transport costs, transport network configurations, and technical and commercial considerations that support broad efforts to develop and deploy carbon capture, conversion, and storage at commercial scale. Full FOA
Applicants for these programs will require a Community Benefits Plan detailing their commitments to community and labor engagement, quality job creation, diversity and equity, and implementation of the Justice40 Initiative. Selected projects must develop implementation strategies and report on activities, and outcomes related to community economic and other benefits and environmental impacts, such as investments in registered apprenticeships, hiring local works, participation of minority-owned business, or changes to non-CO2 pollution.
$7 Billion Available to Create Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs
The Department of Energy opened applications to create regional clean hydrogen hubs. Through this initial funding opportunity, DOE seeks to select six to ten hubs to serve as drivers to help communities benefit from clean-energy investments, create good-paying jobs, and improved energy security.
Hydrogen is a versatile fuel that can be produced from clean, diverse, and domestic energy resources, including wind, solar, and nuclear energy, or by using methane while capturing resulting carbon to reduce emissions. Its unique characteristics make it a strong option to decarbonize energy-intensive heavy industry and support heavy-duty transportation. Hydrogen’s flexibility makes it an important component of President Biden’s strategy to achieve a carbon-free grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050
Concept papers for this opportunity are due by Nov. 7, 2022, and full applications are due by April 7, 2023.
National Telecommunications and Information Administration Broadband Updates
The NTIA recently released several new resources to inform the development of digital equity plans and five-year action plans required to access the billions of dollars available for broadband deployment and digital equity. These resources are key to informing the approach that states take to provide universal access to all residents within their borders. We will post an updated policy brief on the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, reflecting the latest guidance in the coming days and will link to it in our next Policy Update. As these federal broadband programs mature, our broadband initiative continues to support clients in planning for, designing, and deploying broadband infrastructure to close the digital divide.
Digital Equity Plan Resources
- Digital Equity Plan Guidance: Guidance on how to structure and what to include in the Digital Equity Plan to meet the 15 requirements outlined in the NOFO
- Digital Equity Plan Template (Microsoft Word File Download): Optional template to support each State/Territory in capturing notes and developing its Digital Equity Plan
Five-Year Action Plan Resources
- Five-Year Action Plan Guidance: Guidance on how to structure and what to include in the Five-Year Action Plan to meet the 13 requirements outlined in the NOFO
- Five-Year Action Plan Template (Microsoft Word File Download): Optional template to support each Eligible Entity in capturing notes and developing its Five-Year Action Plan
- Five-Year Action Plan Crosswalk: Eligible Entities that have an existing broadband plan that has been completed in the last 12 months from the date of receipt of Initial Planning Funds should provide an index, crosswalk, or similar document that allows the reader to locate content relevant to the requirements of the NOFO. This document is a sample crosswalk outlining how Eligible Entities may show alignment between their existing broadband plans and the NOFO requirements
BEAD-Digital Equity Alignment
- BEAD-Digital Equity Alignment Guide: Guidance on how the BEAD and State Digital Equity Plan requirements work together and how to coordinate activities for both programs
EPA Announces New Office for Environmental Justice
The Environmental Protection Agency announced the establishment of a new national office charged with advancing environmental justice and civil rights. This new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights will “dedicate more than 200 EPA staff in headquarters and across 10 regions towards solving environmental challenges” in underserved communities. According to the announcement, the staff will
- engage with communities with environmental justice concerns to understand their needs, as well as Tribal, state, and local partners
- manage and disburse historic levels of grants and technical assistance
- work with other EPA offices to incorporate environmental justice into the agency’s programs, policies, and processes
- ensure EPA funding recipients comply with civil rights laws.
The Office will be key in administering the $3 billion climate and environmental justice block grant program created by the Inflation Reduction Act (see update below for our Advisory Services Snapshot on IRA) as well as other programs authorized by the IRA and IIJA.
The new office merges three existing programs: the Office of Environmental Justice, External Civil Rights Compliance Office, and Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center. The new office will:
- Improve and enhance the agency’s ability to infuse equity, civil rights, and environmental justice principles and priorities into all EPA practices, policies, and programs.
- Support the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.
- Engage communities with environmental justice concerns and increase support for community-led action through grants and technical assistance.
- Enforce federal civil rights laws that, together, prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin (including on the basis of limited-English proficiency); sex; disability; or age by applicants for and recipients of federal financial assistance from EPA.
- Provide services and expertise in alternative dispute resolution, environmental conflict resolution, consensus-building, and collaborative problem solving
Inflation Reduction Act Snapshot
We have prepared a quick snapshot of the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act, summarizing the key direct federal investments in infrastructure. This two-page summary is the first in a series of policy briefs we’ll put on the IRA, summarizing the key programs and providing perspective on how the IRA and the IIJA support infrastructure deployment.
Advisory Services Brief: Inflation and Infrastructure Delivery — Drivers and Solutions
In addition to providing analysis of the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act, we’ve also put out analysis of the effects of inflation on infrastructure investment. Prepared by our industry-leading economists, this Advisory Brief tackles the underlying causes of inflation and evaluates its effect on the buying power of project sponsors, providing perspective on how to mitigate its effects with regards to infrastructure development. I think you’ll find it insightful and informative — give it a read!