Infrastructure bill moves closer to approval

Written on: November 9, 2021 by ICM

According to a National Energy & Fuels Institute (NEFI) announcement, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was approved last Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives. President Biden has stated that he will sign the bill into law. The $1.2 trillion bill includes $550 billion in new spending over five years for “traditional” infrastructure, including roads, bridges, rail, ports, airports, the power grid and broadband internet access. This constitutes the largest investment in U.S. infrastructure in decades. The Senate previously cleared the bill in August by a vote of 69-30 after months of intense bipartisan negotiations.

NEFI and its allies in the DRIVE Safe Coalition successfully advocated for the inclusion of a young CDL driver apprenticeship pilot program in the IIJA. The three-year pilot program will allow 18-to-20-year-old CDL drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles (excluding hazardous cargo) in interstate commerce after completing a 120-hour apprenticeship program and a 280-hour probationary period. NEFI also joined a coalition letter last week pressing the administration to work swiftly to create the program.

The IIJA also includes NEFI-backed legislation to establish a Women of Trucking Advisory Board at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This new advisory board will help to encourage more women to consider driving as a profession.

Additionally, the bill includes $100 million per year for the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), for a total of $500 million over five years. This adds to an already historic amount of funding for the program. Last week, the Biden administration released 90% of fiscal year 2022 LIHEAP funds to states, or $3.37 billion. Total fiscal year 2022 funding is expected to reach $4 billion with the IIJA funds included. This is in addition to $4.5 billion provided by the coronavirus relief package in March, for a total of $8.5 billion. The IIJA also includes federal support for building efficiency, energy audits, and related state financing and grant programs, including $3.5 billion for the Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program.

The bill reauthorizes gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and excise taxes on new trucks, tractors, and trailers at current rates. The IIJA creates a pilot program using volunteer participants to evaluate the merits of a per-mile user fee for motor vehicles to fund the Highway Trust Fund.