Capitol to Capitol | Dec. 20, 2021

12/20/2021

Congress Passes Debt Ceiling Extension Measure

Narrowly avoiding a default on the national debt, Congress raised the debt ceiling to nearly $31 trillion. The new ceiling, which will likely need to be raised again in early 2023, is intended to provide an extra cushion for the now-enacted infrastructure bill that included a $118 billion transfer to the Highway Trust Fund, and the Democrats’ Build Back Better legislation, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated would add $155.1 billion to the deficit over the course of fiscal year 2022. Lawmakers last increased the debt limit to $28.9 trillion. The CBO estimated in July that at the beginning of FY 2023, the debt subject to the limit will be slightly more than $30.6 trillion. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Erlinda Doherty and Patrick Lawler

USDOT Releases Infrastructure Law State by State Amounts for FY 2022 … With a Major Catch

The U.S. Department of Transportation released the official amounts states will receive in formula funds for roads and bridges in FY 2022 following passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which represent a 20% increase over FY 2021—any discretionary grants awarded to a state would be in addition to these amounts. However, because Congress has not yet passed an FY 2022 appropriations bill, states are limited to the amounts appropriated in FY 2021. The current continuing resolution runs through mid-February at which point Congress could enact an FY 2022 omnibus appropriations bill.  Access the state by state numbers here.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Hush and Kristen Hildreth

FAA Sends Nearly $3 Billion to Airports from Infrastructure Law

The Federal Aviation Administration announced $2.89 billion made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to 3,075 airports around the nation. The funds can be invested in runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability projects, as well as terminal, airport-transit connections and roadway projects. Access the state by state numbers here.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Hush and Kristen Hildreth

Federal Highway Administration Issues Memo on Spending New Infrastructure Funds  

The FHWA released updated guidance concerning how recipients of the law’s funds should aim to use those funds. Specifically, the memo notes that recipients should prioritize repairing existing infrastructure rather than building or expanding roads. However, ultimately the agency can only encourage states to adopt this mindset— “FHWA will implement policies and undertake actions to encourage—and where permitted by law, require—recipients of federal highway funding to select projects that improve the condition and safety of existing transportation infrastructure within the right-of-way before advancing projects that add new general-purpose travel lanes serving single-occupancy vehicles.“ Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Hush and Kristen Hildreth

USDOT and DOE Create Joint Office to Implement New EV Charging Program

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg signed a memorandum of understanding to create a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation to support the implementation of the new electric vehicle infrastructure charging program. The program was funded with $7.5 billion to build out a national electric vehicle charging network, with $5 billion sent to states through formula and $2.5 billion open to discretionary awards by the joint office. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Hush and Kristen Hildreth

Lead and Copper Rule Revisions in Effect, Additional Changes Forthcoming

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to let the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions promulgated under the previous administration take effect on De. 16 after finding that the rule will improve public health protections, in accordance with EO 13990. For more information on the LCRR please read NCSL’s Info Alert here.

The agency also revealed plans to propose a new rule that will consider ways of strengthening the agency’s current “action” level of 15 parts per billion, which when exceeded requires utilities to take steps to control for corrosion and eventually replace pipes. The plan also includes details about how the $3 billion in funding under the IIJA will be allocated to states for lead line replacements, and includes clarification from the Department of Treasury that $350 billion in funding provided in the American Rescue Plan can indeed be used for line replacement and lead faucet and fixture replacement. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Hush and Kristen Hildreth

EPA Releases Plans to Use $1 Billion to Clear Superfund Backlog

The EPA announced a $1 billion investment from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to initiate cleanup and clear the backlog of 49 previously unfunded Superfund sites and accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites across the country. The $1 billion investment is the first wave of funding from the $3.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help clean up polluted Superfund sites in communities. The backlog of previously unfunded sites that will now be receiving funding is in 24 states and territories and all 10 EPA regions, including some communities that have been waiting for cleanup for more than four years. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Hush and Kristen Hildreth

DOI Released Implementation Guidance to States to Address Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells

The Department of Interior (DOI) released initial guidance for states interested in applying for federal grants that will fund the proper closure and cleanup of orphaned oil and gas wells and well sites. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $4.7 billion for orphaned well site plugging, remediation and restoration activities. The new guidance outlines eligible activities states may use grant funding for, including plugging wells, remediating and reclaiming lands impacted by oil and gas development activities, and removing infrastructure associated with the wells. It also includes information on how states can apply for grant opportunities and timelines for implementing the programs. Each state may receive up to $25 million initial funding for eligible activities that will help carry out these provisions. States have until Dec. 30, 2021, to notify the department if they intend to apply for a larger formula grant. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Hush and Kristen Hildreth

New GAO Report on Actions Needed to Identify and Address Potential Disaster Recovery Barriers

The Government Accountability Office report examined federal recovery programs under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Small Business Administration, and Department of Housing and Urban Development and found that most of the programs did not collect or analyze demographic data from applicants. Accordingly, the report recommends systematic efforts to collect this demographic data and use it to address potential barriers to program access and disparate recovery outcomes. Read more.

NCSL Contacts: Kristen Hildreth and Nicole Ezeh

In Every Edition

Read the Dec. 6 Capitol to Capitol.

NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL’s Washington staff advocates on behalf of state legislatures before Congress, the White House and federal agencies in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policy positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Erlinda Doherty | 202-624-8698 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Kristen Hildreth | 202-624-3597 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education
  • Tres York | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services