Infrastructure & Jobs Bill clears Senate, faces Hurdles in the House

Posted by Kelly Burke on Aug 11, 2021 11:43:09 AM

shutterstock_1071118595

The Biden Administration's 1 trillion dollar Infrastructure Package, the "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act" passed the Senate on Tuesday, with a voting margin of 69-30, meaning the passage was far more bipartisan than we are used to seeing as of late.

The  bill now heads to the House, where it faces a potentially more difficult road to passage, surprisingly not along the usual party lines as much as from a progressive faction in the House that has vowed  they would not vote on Infrastructure until a separate 3.5 trillion dollar social policy bill (the so called "Human Infrastructure" package) is passed. The second bill is expected to be a party line vote, occuring today or tomorrow, and it is unclear how long the standoff may be in the House regarding if the Transportation Package is passed ahead of the second bill as a standalone, or not. A lot of the answer to this likely hedges on whether the second bill is attempted to be pushed over as a budget resolution (which would allow passage sans Republican votes). 

The Transportation Infrastructure bill that is pending in the House, although at a whopping 1 trillion dollars, started back several months ago as a 2.3 trillion dollar plan.  Major concessions obviously were made to drop the totals, but here are some of the major categories the final bill is anticipated to include:

  • Infrastructure:  $110 billion in new funding for physical infrastructure - including repair to roads and bridges, and a focus on both repairing and shoring up the infrastructure in areas vulnerable to climate change related damage.  

  • Clean Energy: $73 billion to modernize the electrical grid (including transmission lines) and expand clean energy sources. New transmission lines will accomodate renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal into the grid, and higher voltage lines will allow vulnerable areas to better withstand climate related impacts to electricity access, like those we saw in Texas this past winter. 

  • Lead Pipe Replacement: $15 billion for lead pipe replacement. This one is sort of oddly lowballed in the context of both the anticipated cost itself ($45-60 billion) and the size of the bill itself. Millions of homes and hundreds of municipalities in America are still serviced with lead pipes, and as the Flint Water Crisis illustrated in 2014, damage to the pipes that results in leaching of lead into the water supply can have devastating effects. 

  • Public Transportation:  investment in rail transportation, including modernizing the Northeast corridor for Amtrak and expanding lines outside the Mid Atlantic region. Public bus and subway systems will also receive funding toward replacing aging equipment and infrastructure, as well as expanding routes with the goal of making public transportation more easily accessible to... well, the public. Currently only urban centers in some states have reliable public options and this portion of the bill is seen as a step towards expanding that access out to more rural communities. 

We'll have to wait til full passage to get into the nitty gritty and really see the end facts and figures on the bill's components, but outside of the political pundit commentary, at the very least people seem to agree that as far as regular citizens are concerned the key focus of the bill is the jobs expected to be created to handle repairing, building, and expanding infrastructure, as well as those that will be required to manufacture, manage, and coordinate those efforts. 

In the Northeast region in particular, the updating and expansion of Amtrak and public passenger rail, bridge repair, and investment toward shoring up areas vulnerable to climate related flooding and erosion is heralded by local unions as a boon to their members, particularly coming on the heels of quarantine's severe impact on construction and trade sectors. 

As mentioned, everything essentially now rests on the House and how they choose to approach passage of the Transportation bill - with or without the Human Infrastructure Bill attached. 

Stay Tuned!

 

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Topics: Energy Infrastructure, climate change, Biden Administration

New England Energy Grid Faces More Challenges

Posted by Ed Burke on Aug 30, 2018 1:52:00 PM

Mystic Power Plant

New England has some of the highest utility rates in the country, and a fuel-constrained infrastructure. Now the area is again looking at potentially losing two major energy sources simultaneously. 

The Mystic Generating Station in Everett announced a full shutdown as of 2022. If Mystic closes, the LNG import terminal in Everett would lose its largest customer, which would jeopardize the terminal's ability to stay operational. The result of the terminal closing in tandem with the generation station means the region would be at risk for rolling blackouts during the winter months.This is obviously a huge safety concern for residents. 

The regions energy infrastructure is complicated, and the path forward looks complicated as well. As any resident of Mass can attest, there has been a lot of back and forth regarding the shuttering of older plants, which has its pro's and cons (Brayton Point, and Pilgrim being recent examples). There has concurrently been much back and forth on the merits and drawbacks of added pipeline capacity for natural gas, looking at nuclear options, and so on. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy detailing some of the issues surrounding the potential Mystic & LNG terminal closures, and what its looking like the path forward may be depending on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's rulings, etc. You can read the article here:  New England Grid Needs Broader Market Changes to Address Fuel Security 

 

 

Fun fact: Photo featured is of the Mystic Generation Station taken about a mile from our old HQ in Chelsea, MA by an employee 

 

 

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Topics: Utility Rates, Energy Infrastructure

Infrastructure on the Agenda

Posted by Ed Burke on Mar 31, 2015 12:16:19 PM

Abstract view of the cockpit of a semi-truck driving on the highway

Energy Infrastructure is one of the topics essentially absent from the Congressional agenda at the moment, with the exception of continuing efforts to pass a Keystone XL bill. As you recall, the last bill successfully passed the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by President. It ultimately died in the Senate where it lacked the votes to override said veto. 

What's interesting is the legislature is dealing with a lot of infrastructure and transportation structure and funding issues (the Highway Trust Fund, Supply Chain issues on the West Coast, EPA Clean Power Limit Proposals, etc) but has somewhat neglected looking at energy infrastructure as a stand alone concern.

One of the EPA proposals under review, the "Clean Power Plan" which seeks to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants. The proposal would spike electricity rates further, and rate payers would also be on the hook for the upgrades needed to comply with the proposal if it goes through in its current form. 

This is especially bad for New Englanders who have recently been dealt a 37% rate hike on electric utility rates (read more on that here: MA Rate Hikes). New Englands issue is a lack of infrastructure on the natural gas side, somewhat ironically. 

I wrote an article for the March issue of Oil & Energy Magazine on Infrastructure policies under review and how a lack of forward progress on them could slow economic growth. You can read the full article here: Infrastructure Shortfalls Could Slow Growth 

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Topics: Oil & Energy Magazine, Energy Infrastructure, Congress

Keystone XL Hits the Senate Floor

Posted by Ed Burke on Nov 18, 2014 11:59:17 AM

Oil pipeline in the snow

Today, the bill to approve the construction of the the Keystone XL pipeline hits the Senate, after the House approved Cassidy's legislation by 252-161 on Friday. 

In an exciting twist, the Senate is apparently stuck at 59 votes in favor, one shy of the 60 needed to pass the legislation and send it to the Presidents desk. However, Mary Landrieu (D-LA) claimed yesterday to have secured the 60th vote. The bill hits the floor in what some say is an attempt to boost Landrieu's chances of maintaining her Senate seat in the December 6th runoff election she faces versus, oddly, the bill's sponsor, Bill Cassidy.

(Sounds cynical, yes, but given that the House has previously passed 8 seperate bills to push the vote on Keystone and none saw the Senate floor, it seems pretty reasonable as well.)

The jury is out on whether if the bill passes it will be vetoed by the President or not. He cited a legal challenge to the pipeline in Nebraska that is still ongoing, stating that "process should not be interfered with", but Secretary of State John Kerry recently made statements in Canada that implied the Administration may not veto a bill if it came down to it. It's really anyone's guess. 

Obviously, this has been a lighting rod political issue for the over 6 years the project has been on hold. On one side there are environmental groups and people in the geography impacted, who are concerned with  the climate impact, potential leaks,  and the "doubling down" on a commitment to fossil fuels they see the pipeline as representing. On the other are groups who argue this strengthens our energy independence and supports American workers and the American economy versus that of other countries, and those who cite the immediate jobs boost the project will represent. 

We've talked about some of these Keystone related issues before: 

There are 6 hours scheduled for debate on the floor, with the vote expected to occur at 6:15pm. Stay tuned! 

 

 

 

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Topics: Energy Independence, Keystone XL, Energy Infrastructure, TransCanada, senate

Progress on Keystone XL? ....Don't Get Your Hopes Up

Posted by Ed Burke on Jun 25, 2014 2:49:09 PM

Oil pipline in the snow

 

Tuesday the House passed bipartisan legislation to speed up the approval process for cross-border energy projects (ie Keystone XL), despite a promised veto from President Obama.  The bill is known as the “North American Energy Infrastructure Act”, featuring 12 Republican and 8 Democratic co-sponsors. If it passed the Senate, it would establish by law that projects be granted or denied approval within 120 days of the Environmental Impact Study, and more significantly, it would remove the need for Presidential Approval.

Technically the bill doesn’t apply to Keystone XL, because the applications and environmental impact studies are already completed for that proposed project. However, that’s obviously the most glaring example of the need to speed up the process, and probably the impetus for the bill’s submission in the first place. In theory, TransCanada could resubmit their application and be subject to the speedier process. (A motion to prevent TransCanada from resubmitting should the bill pass was handily shut down by a wide margin.) 

It’s unlikely that the bill will get through the Senate with a veto-proof majority, though. It may not even be likely that the bill be considered by the Senate, as Majority Leader Reid has indicated he has no inclination to move this or previous Keystone related bills to the floor if he can help it. 

As you know, the project has been languishing for over 5 years after delay upon delay. Earlier this year, progress looked promising when the Environmental Impact Study found no significant environmental concern to prevent the project from going forward (actually, its more environmentally safe to transport via pipeline than railcar - but I digress...). However, nothing much happened and now the current hold up is purportedly related to a "wait and see" on how a Nebraska district court rules on the proposed pathway for a portion of pipeline in that state.

Frustrating to be sure - but the strong bipartisan nature of the push to move Keystone forward in Congress is an encouraging sign. I'm sure we won't see any real movement until after the midterms, given the polarity of the issue in some areas and the amount of seats up for grabs in the Senate. Hopefully, no matter which way the chips fall in the mid terms, we finally see some real, meaningful progress on what is such an extremely important project for our Energy and National Security. 

 

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Topics: Energy Independence, Keystone XL, Energy Infrastructure, Congress, TransCanada, Environmental Impact Study

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