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House Passes Infrastructure Bill That Includes Several Items Of Importance To Public Power

July 2, 2020

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
Posted July 2, 2020

The House on July 1 passed H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, by a vote of 233 to 188. The $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill includes a number of key priorities for public power.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, on Jun 18 announced additional details on the Moving America Forward Act.

The American Public Power Association on June 29 said it strongly supports the smart infrastructure investment provisions that are in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act.

“While the nation continues to respond to the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must begin to look to the future with comprehensive legislation to refine, restore, and expand American infrastructure, including our electric infrastructure. These are the investments that make commerce possible — leading to strong communities,” APPA said.

APPA said it strongly supports provisions in H.R. 2 that will make it easier and less costly to finance these critical investments.

These include reinstating the ability for state and local governments, including public power utilities, to issue tax-exempt advance refunding bonds and increasing the small issuer exception from $10 million to $30 million.

APPA also supports the decision to allow the issuance of taxable direct payment bonds and believes that protecting payments to issuers of such bonds from budget sequestration is the correct approach that would only be improved by extending that protection to existing direct payment bonds. Since 2013, budget sequestration has cut payments to direct payment bond issuers by more than $2 billion.

APPA also backs the decision to include in H.R. 2 provisions of the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act for ensuring that all utilities can benefit from incentives intended to encourage critical energy investments. Current tax-based incentives exclude the nearly 90 million Americans served by tax-exempt electric utilities, including public power utilities, the public power group pointed out.

Amendments

Amendments for the legislation were debated and voted upon “en bloc.”

The first set of en bloc amendments offered by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., passed 229 to 189. DeFazio is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

One amendment from Representatives Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., Doris Matsui, D-Calif., Jim Costa, D-Calif., and Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., would add charging speeds and reduction of future upgrade expenses as considerations for Section 1303 electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure grants. A second amendment from Representatives Andy Levin, D-Mich., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. would increase the role of environmental justice stakeholders in the program.

Another set of en bloc amendments offered by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., included:

* An amendment from Representative Bill Foster, D-Ill., to require the Department of Energy to provide goals, objectives, and cost targets for the energy storage demonstration program;
* An amendment from Representative Doris Matsui, D-Calif., to raise the EV supply equipment rebate program cap from $75,000 to $100,000, and;
* An amendment from Representative Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., to create a federal accelerator program to deploy emissions reducing technologies.

Pallone’s en bloc amendment passed 234 to 178.

The House also passed an en bloc amendment also offered by DeFazio that included an amendment by Representatives David McKinley, R-W.Va., Marc Veasey, D-Texas, Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, Terri Sewell, D-Ala., David Schweikert, R-Ariz., Scott Peters, D-Calif., Jim Costa, D-Calif., Carol Miller, R-W.Va., Gilbert Ray Cisneros, D-Calif., and Kendra Horn, D-Okla., that would authorize and provide funding for a Department of Energy carbon capture, utilization, and storage technology commercialization program and direct air capture technology prize program.

The White House has already threatened a veto of the bill and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said there is no chance the Senate will take up the House-passed bill this year.

The legislation is more of a marker of what Democrats will seek to enact in the 117th Congress 2021 if they win take back the Senate and White House and maintain the majority in the House of Representatives.

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