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

  • February 26, 2021

Infrastructure Pittsburgh rails roads

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 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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