Infrastructure Legislation Next on Biden Agenda; Michael Regan Confirmed as EPA Administrator

Infrastructure Dallas

The Biden Administration plans to move forward on its “Build Back Better” infrastructure initiative as the next legislative push to spur the economy after he signed the COVID-19 relief package yesterday. (CNBC, March 10 and New York Times, March 3)

Why It Matters

  • A $312 billion bill was introduced yesterday by House Democrats on the Energy & Commerce (E&C) Committee that would invest in clean energy, drinking water, broadband, and health care infrastructure. LIFT America Act (text, section-by-section analysis, press release).
  • House E&C Democrats last week introduced a sprawling climate change bill, the CLEAN Future Act, which includes provisions on building energy codes, energy benchmarking, and SEC public company reporting on climate risks. (Roundtable Weekly, March 5)
  • More bills are forthcoming on matters addressing highways, mass transit and other surface transportation, as well as energy and infrastructure tax-related matters. In the House, these bills are expected from Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Richard Neal (D-MA), chairs of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, respectively.
  • How to pay for the price tag of these measures remains an overriding issue. Possible revenue sources for infrastructure investments were discussed by the White House with a bipartisan group of Senate leaders on Feb. 11, and House leaders on March 4.  (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 12 and Feb. 19, and Reuters, March 4)

Congressional Committees’ Influence

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (R-WV)

  • Capitol Hill hearings this week focused on various aspects of low-carbon energy, climate-resilient infrastructure and transportation issues. (Axios, March 8, “Energy and climate move closer to center stage on Capitol Hill”)  The House Energy Committee will start hearings next week on its CLEAN Future Act (E&C press release, March 11)
  • Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (R-WV), above, told “Axios on HBO” that he will seek tax increases to pay for Biden’s upcoming proposal, and will use his leadership position to pursue bipartisan solutions to climate realities.
  • Manchin said the budget process called reconciliation should not be pursued to pass the climate and infrastructure package. Reconciliation was used to advance the pandemic relief bill without Republican support in the 50-50 Senate. (Axios, “Manchin’s Next Power Play,” March 8).
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) told Bloomberg this week that a transportation infrastructure package could move through his committee by the end of May and signed into law as part of a broader economic recovery plan by the end of September. (Bloomberg, March 10)

Michael Regan Confirmed as EPA Administrator

EPA Administrator Michael Regan

  • Michael Regan was confirmed this week as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  He will apply his experience as North Carolina’s environmental chief to broad federal policies addressing climate change and energy efficiency. (E&E News and Reuters, March 10)

What’s Next

The Real Estate Roundtable, as part of the Build by the 4th coalition, is encouraging Congress to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package by Independence Day 2021. The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) is also focused on climate and energy regulations on buildings emerging at the state and local level. 

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Biden Plans Infrastructure Push as Congress, Agencies Prepare to Investigate the Texas Electric Grid Crisis

The Biden Administration plans to push for a large-scale infrastructure initiative that takes into account the effects of climate change after Congress finishes consideration of the pandemic relief package. Meanwhile, federal regulators and Congress are preparing to examine the threat that climate change poses to the nation’s electric infrastructure in the wake of last week’s deadly freeze in Texas that stranded millions without power. (Wall Street Journal and ReutersFeb. 22)   

  • The Biden Administration is expected to reveal details of its infrastructure package soon, as part of its “Build Back Better” agenda to spur economic recovery. (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 19)
  • The rolling power outages across Texas and the Midwest due to severe winter storms prompted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) this week to open a proceeding to examine how electric grid operators prepare for and respond to extreme weather events. (FERC news release and FERC Insight, Feb. 2021)
  • FERC Chairman Richard Glick said, “The effects of climate change are already apparent and we must do everything we can within our statutory authority to ensure that the electric grid is capable of keeping the lights on in the face of extreme weather.” 
  • The Texas power outages have increased scrutiny in Congress on the need for investments in the nation’s electric grid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) referred to the blackouts when she announced that the House Energy Committee will be investigating the matter. (Axios, Feb. 19)
  • In the Senate, Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (R-WV) told Politico Pro that he is planning his own review of the power grid issue. (Politico, Feb. 19) 
  • The question of how to fund a national infrastructure effort remains the major challenge for Washington policymakers. ( Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 12)  Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) suggested at a hearing yesterday that a national pilot program should explore a “vehicle miles travelled” tax, while Manchin separately stated that the gas tax paid by consumers at the pump “is not going to do what we need” to build and modernize roads, bridges, and mass transit. (NATSO, Feb. 25)   
  • The Roundtable and the Build by the 4th coalition is encouraging Congress to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package by Independence Day 2021. Last December it also provided recommendations to the new Administration that included infrastructure funding and modernization as engines to drive recovery and job growth from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Construction Industry’s Role

  • The leadership role that the construction industry could take in sustainable development was the focus of a Feb. 7 op-ed in Crain’s New York Business by Suffolk’s Executive President of Business Development, Ann Klee. (Suffolk’s Chairman and Executive Officer John Fish is the Chair-Elect of The Real Estate Roundtable)
  • “The construction industry can be part of the solution by working with developers and owners to reimagine the entire building lifecycle and ensure sustainability is incorporated at every stage of the process, from planning, design and material selection to building operation and energy efficiency after construction completion,” the op-ed states.
  • Other recommendations include more efficient management of the consumer supply chain; just-in-time delivery of materials to project sites; and minimizing construction waste.

Ms. Klee concludes that sustainable development will require “smart planning, flawless execution and education across the spectrum of stakeholders to ensure these best practices pay significant dividends, both socially and financially, in the long term.”

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