House Infrastructure Bill Introduced
On June 3rd, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced his long-awaited infrastructure bill, known as the INVEST in America Act. The bill would spend $494 billion over five years – with the vast majority of the funding for the programs authorized in the legislation coming ($411 billion) from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The bill, however, does not include a funding mechanism to shore up the HTF and support the bill’s proposed 46 percent increase in spending.
The bill, which authorizes surface transportation programs, also includes provisions to authorize funding for programs beyond a traditional highway bill. The bill would allow states and cities flexibility in using the infrastructure funds during the pandemic recovery and provides ongoing transit grants an increased federal cost share to make up for lost revenue. In addition, the bill would create multiple new discretionary grant programs, including $1.4 billion for electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, and would create a national Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) pilot program, as well as individual VMT pilot programs in all 50 states.
In advance of the bill’s introduction, SIGMA joined a coalition letter to the House and Committee leadership urging them to “protect the longstanding ban on privatizing and commercializing Interstate rest areas as [lawmakers] consider policies to promote investments in America’s infrastructure.” The letter further clarified that that making available EV charging stations at Interstate rest areas, similar to traditional refueling, is a commercial service that would require overturning the rest area commercialization ban. Instead, the letter encouraged Congress “to explore policies that would encourage existing off-highway businesses to expand EV charging offerings.”
The letter states that the “best way to limit ‘range anxiety’ for EV users is to incentivize the thousands of travel centers, gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, and hotels located in close proximity to an Interstate to offer EV charging services.” If those services are made available at rest areas on the Interstate right-of-way, however, “it would discourage the private sector from investing in EV charging infrastructure and ultimately hinder growth in these alternative fuels.”
Republicans on the Committee criticized Chairman DeFazio for failing to work with them on bipartisan legislation. Chairman DeFazio has said he plans to hold a markup of his bill on June 17th and work with Committee Republicans in the interim on amendments.
In the Senate, Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced their own infrastructure bill, which advanced unanimously out of the Committee last summer. The bipartisan legislation would provide $287 billion over five years for surface transportation programs. During an EPW Committee hearing this week, Chairman Barrasso reiterated his support for the bill, arguing it would be a “mistake” to rely on short term extensions of the current highway authorization, which expires on September 30th. It is likely, however, that a short-term reauthorization will be passed with the decisions on additional spending and programs pushed until after the November elections.
SIGMA Needs Your Feedback on EPA Streamlining Rule
On May 14, 2020, the EPA published its proposed streamlining rule, which would update the existing gasoline, diesel, and related fuel regulations in 40 C.F.R. part 80.1. According to the Agency, it is streamlining the regulations in order to facilitate compliance with fuel and environmental regulations while reducing compliance costs for regulated parties. Comments on the proposal are due June 29, 2020.
There are several provisions of particular interest to SIGMA members in the proposed rule. SIGMA counsel has prepared a summary of the provisions and is requesting SIGMA member feedback.
To access the document, first log in to the SIGMA app (There is a link to reset your password if you forgot it. Your login is your email address)
Next CLICK HERE to view the summary and send your comments to Eva Rigamonti at email@example.com as soon as possible. [Note: You must be signed in to view the document.]
If you have trouble accessing the document, email Amy Rider at firstname.lastname@example.org to have it emailed to you.
Senate Passes PPP Loan Changes
On June 3rd, the Senate passed legislation that makes changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to give businesses more flexibility in how they use the loan funds. The bill was passed by unanimous consent and will now be sent to President Trump, who is expected to sign it.
Specifically, the legislation would increase the amount of time during which businesses can make qualifying expenditures for PPP loan forgiveness from 8 to 24 weeks, or December 31st, whichever comes first, and allow businesses with PPP loans that have been forgiven to defer payroll taxes.
Additionally, the bill reduces from 75% to 60% the amount of covered funds that must be spent on payroll expenses. Some businesses have complained that the current requirement to spend 75% of funds on payroll limits their ability to cover nonpayroll costs, such as rent and utility payments, particularly while their employees are laid off. The bill also would extend the deadline for rehiring workers to June 30th and allow businesses to repay any non-forgiven loan balance over five years, instead of two.
The bill was passed by the House last week by a vote of 417-1.
SIGMA Legislative Update Next Wednesday
SIGMA will hold a legislative update webinar next Wednesday, June 10th at 4PM ET on our recent advocacy efforts.
Click Here to Join the Webinar
Click Here to Add to Your Calendar
Senate Commerce Committee Holds Infrastructure Hearing
On June 3rd, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing on the “State of Transportation and Critical Infrastructure: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The hearing focused on challenges facing the transportation industry as a result of the pandemic and what actions Congress should take in response.
Witnesses testified regarding the losses being experienced by their industries and made specific suggestions on Congressional actions, including investing in infrastructure, providing incentives to companies to invest in cleaner and safer equipment, providing “reasonable protections” against pandemic-related litigation, and making the current temporary waivers from existing maximum truck weight limits for the delivery of emergency supplies permanent.
Of interest to SIGMA members, there was significant discussion on the issue of liability protection. Several witnesses made clear that the liability protection the industry being sought is narrow and “would not protect rogue bad actors, but the industry as all whole,” and highlighted the “robust” safety practices the industry has already put in place. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) asked what “specific and binding consumer protection standards” they would consider to be appropriate if Congress provided some liability protection. Witnesses responded that they are seeking liability protection provided they are acting in good faith and following standards set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as industry is already doing. Liability protection should be “targeted and limited” to the issues and concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and not be related to gross negligence or reckless acts.
The Committee was generally supportive of infrastructure investment, with Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) stating, “an infrastructure bill would not only invest money into our economy but leave us with a lot to show for it.” Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) agreed, stating that investment in infrastructure is “critical” to protect the wellbeing of truck drivers.
Democratic committee members criticized the Trump Administration for not issuing mandatory workplace safety standards. In this regard, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) highlighted her bill that would require OSHA to issue such standards and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said it is a “mistake” that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has not issued mandatory safety guidance. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) concurred, stating that federal safety mandates for the transportation industry are “absolutely necessary.”
There was bipartisan frustration with the lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the transportation industry, with Democrats in particular criticizing the Trump Administration for not doing more to provide PPE to essential transportation workers and said calling for a “national coordinated strategy” to supply PPE to the industry. Chairman Wicker also mentioned autonomous vehicles as a potential means of contactless delivery of critical supplies.
SIGMA 2020 Carly Boyett Industry Scholarship Deadline Approaching!
We appreciate all you and your business are doing to stay open and serve your community during these uncertain times. Now it’s our turn to help you. Our 2020 Fuel Foundation Scholarships are available for you and your team.
Two $5,000 Carl Boyett Industry scholarships will be awarded this year. The deadline for 2020 entries is June 29, 2020. Scholarships will be announced, and recipients notified, by August 3, 2020.
Who Can Apply?
- SIGMA Marketer Members' employees who are actively pursuing or plan to pursue a degree, program, or specific training that will help advance or expand their career within their fuels industry company. Scholarship funds awarded must be used within 9 months of official notification.
Carl Boyett Industry Scholarship applications must include the following:
- An essay from applicants (no more than 1500 words) about your industry interests and goals. Please include answers to the following questions:
- Why are you passionate about the fuels industry?
- What education will you invest in and why?
- Two letters of reference from industry professionals endorsing your work ethic and potential.
Click Here to Apply