Top NREE Stories
Increasing EV Infrastructure Investments
The Biden administration is continuing to focus on investments in electric vehicles (EV) and nationwide EV infrastructure. The White House has announced new actions and the release of significant infrastructure funding. The administration’s actions include the release of the intended definitions for the Inflation Reduction Act 30C EV charging tax credit by the Treasury Department and the Department of Energy (DOE). These definitions, which are laid out in a mapping tool, are expected to widely expand the credit’s availability to U.S. consumers looking to install EV chargers.
The announced funding includes $623 million of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funds that will be distributed across 47 projects in 23 states and territories to fund the installation of an estimated 7,500 new charging ports nationwide. More than 70% of that funding will be allocated for projects in disadvantaged communities. An additional $149 million was announced to repair approximately 4,500 out-of-service electric vehicle charging stations across 20 states to improve the reliability of the EV charging network. More than $160 million is being allocated by the DOE for research, development and technology integration projects for zero-emission vehicles and mobility. Funding is also being released by the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation to help train an EV charging network repair workforce.
Additionally, the nation is beginning to see results from earlier federal investments in EV infrastructure. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has confirmed the completion of the first electric vehicle charging station installation under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program. This $5 billion federal BIL program distributes funds to states each year to help cover up to 80% of eligible EV infrastructure project costs.
Revamped FEMA Disaster Payments
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced significant changes to the Individual Assistance Program that will affect how disaster survivors receive assistance beginning March 22, 2024. This interim final rule is designed to improve the amount and speed at which assistance is delivered to individuals in a disaster zone. Reforms include providing funds up-front to cover immediate expenses including housing for the displaced, removing Small Business Administration loan requirements, and increasing the funding provided for rebuilding to underinsured homeowners. The public comment period for this interim final rule closes on July 22, 2024.
Changing Social Costs of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Late last year the EPA updated how the federal government considers and measures the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions by issuing final figures that set the social cost of certain air pollutants including carbon, methane and nitrous oxides, as a part of its final rule Standards of Performance for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources and Emissions Guidelines for Existing Sources: Oil and Natural Gas Sector Climate Review. The social costs for these air pollutants have in some cases more than tripled what they were initially valued at in the White House Interagency Working Group’s 2021 interim social cost greenhouse gas metrics. Federal agencies are expected to begin implementation of the revised social costs in 2024, though it is unclear whether the administration will develop new or improved standards to align with these new more stringent metrics.
Top Transportation Stories
New Money for Major Regional Infrastructure Projects
President Biden’s Investing in America agenda has received a $4.9 billion funding boost to support its efforts to address America’s crumbling infrastructure in 2024. The funding, which was allocated in the BIL, will be distributed through the Department of Transportation’s National Infrastructure Project Assistance (Mega) grant program and Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program and is intended to support large projects of regional and national interest. Both programs will address economically vital bridge and highway infrastructure and collectively fund 39 projects. These projects include $1 billion for repairs to Blatnik Bridge that connects Wisconsin and Minnesota, $600 million for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program for bridge repairs between Oregon and Washington, and $81 million to complete project gaps along the Interstate 95 corridor. This infrastructure investment will also align with the administration’s Justice40 goals, as over half of the INFRA projects are focused on improvements in rural areas. The next application period for Mega and INFRA funding opportunities is expected to open in the Summer of 2024.
Short but Sweet, More News Below!
- Renewable energy and domestic fertilizer projects are getting a boost from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has announced $207 million in new project funding for the Rural Energy for America Program and the Fertilizer Production Expansion Program. Approximately 675 projects will receive funding to help increase rural renewable energy infrastructure and access or increase the production and competitiveness of domestic fertilizer production. Learn More.
- Two new pots of funding are being released by the USDA to support the U.S. Specialty Crops Sector. The Specialty Crop Block Program will provide $72.9 million in grant funding to encourage increased competitiveness within the specialty crop sector. The Assisting Specialty Crops Export initiative will provide $65 million in funding to increase global exports and develop new markets. Read More.
- The EPA has released a proposed amendment to wastewater pollution discharge standards for meat and poultry product facilities. Some of the proposed changes include more stringent effluent limitations for the direct and indirect discharges of certain chemicals, pretreatment standards for certain biological solids and the segregation and management of high-salt waste and certain bacteria-containing streams. Learn More.
- The Agriculture Marketing Service, a USDA entity, has begun to implement its new Remote Grading Pilot Program for Beef. This pilot, which is intended to help lower cattle grading costs for producers, now allows ranchers to have their cattle remotely graded by photo submission. Learn More.
- Agriculture producers may lose current air emissions reporting exemptions if the EPA finalizes the proposed rule Emergency Release Notification Requirements for Animal Waste Air Emissions under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). This proposed regulation would reinstate regulations on livestock waste air pollution emissions. Read More.
- The DOE has awarded $800,000 under the Capacity Building for Repurposing Energy Assets initiative to be split evenly between eight local government and nonprofit organizations to assist those entities with repurposing closing coal energy infrastructure and developing a highly skilled technical workforce. Read More.
- Funding for decarbonization innovation in the industrial sector, including energy efficiency, development of advanced hydrogen fuel, electrification and electrolysis feasibility, is being released by the DOE. Of the $254 million in available funding, $171 million has already been awarded to 49 projects. The remaining funding will be distributed to future decarbonization projects through an application process. Read More.
- The Department of the Interior has released a draft update to the 2012 Western Solar Plan that governs solar energy development on federal public lands. This proposed update will act as a roadmap to increase the speed of development, permitting and installation of utility-scale solar energy in the western part of the United States. Learn More.
- Part one of a draft federal definition for “zero-emissions buildings” has been released by the DOE providing information about “operating emissions”. This definition, if finalized, is intended to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions of buildings and achieve broader administration climate goals. Learn More.
- The final gas stove efficiency standards released by the DOE have rolled back some of the more stringent measures previously proposed for newly manufactured models. The DOE anticipates that 97% of gas stove models and 77% of smooth electric stove models will meet the revised standards that go into effect in 2028. Learn More.
- The EPA has released new proposed emission limits for municipal waste compactors. The proposed rule, if finalized, would significantly cut nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, lead and mercury emissions over a 20-year period and is estimated to have benefits between $5.1 and $16 million. Read More.
- EPCRA reporting requirements for certain chemicals listed in the Toxic Release Inventory have been updated for 2024. These revisions include adding seven new PFAS to the reportable list, bringing the total number of reportable PFAS up to 196. These PFAS are also now designated as “chemicals of special concern,” which eliminates them from eligibility for certain reporting exemptions. Read More.
- New funding has been announced by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to help address damage to roads and bridges caused by extreme weather events. The $729.4 million, administered as a reimbursement under the emergency relief program, will be distributed among 34 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Learn More.
- The FHWA released an updated edition of the Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways that now discourages the use of funny changeable message signs due to the potential for causing driver confusion, however an agency spokesperson recently clarified that these signs, while discouraged for safety reasons, are not banned. Read More.
NCSL News and Resources
- The expansion of transmission infrastructure is necessary for many states in achieving clean energy goals and improving grid reliability. NCSL encourages you to read its recent resource Electric Transmission Planning: A Primer for State Legislatures. This primer provides an overview of transmission challenges, planning processes and actors involved, with the goal of enabling state legislators to better understand the current landscape and the options for progress.
- NCSL’s Alternative Transportation User Fees Foundation Partnership gathered state lawmakers, legislative staff and private partners in Austin, Texas, for a discussion on how to generate funds for transportation as state motor fuel tax revenue continues to dwindle. National experts presented information on congestion and cordon pricing, road user charges delivery fees and other alternative user fees.
- Nearly 43,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2021. Of those, 31% involved alcohol-impaired drivers—a 14% increase from 2020—and 18% involved a driver who tested positive for two or more impairing drugs. Experts discussed state initiatives to address this surge in not only drunken but also drugged driving during NCSL's Base Camp. Learn more.
- A recent article in NCSL’s State Legislatures News discusses the likelihood that states will continue to explore alternative revenue sources for transportation such as per-kilowatt hour fees and road user charges. The NCSL article also details how states have been tackling impaired driving, given alcohol-impaired driving crashes have increased by 14% since 2020. States are looking to enhance their ability to detect drug-impaired driving violations with new technology, refining their ignition interlock laws and programs and looking to require impaired drivers convicted of vehicular homicide to pay child support for victims’ surviving children.