The Rebuild With Us campaign called on Congress to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package, and on July 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Moving Forward Act (H.R.2). This is the second installment in a local leader blog series from NLC’s Federal Advocacy committee chairs that will showcase wins for cities, towns and villages as we continue to advocate for Senate action on infrastructure.
Our municipality, Morrisville, North Carolina, a town of around 30,000 residents, is becoming increasingly urbanized and dense due to our proximity to the state capital of Raleigh – and this growth matches our growing infrastructure needs.
The Outdoors For All Act (H.R. 4512), which is included within the Moving Forward Act, can help facilitate our need for an additional 135 acres of parks and open space for our growing community. We are fortunate to be part of strong collaborative partnerships for our regional water infrastructure and the provisions for increased funding for green infrastructure and increased efficiencies will benefit our stakeholders now and for generations to come. Always seeking to reduce our carbon footprint, Morrisville has furthered our commitment by authorizing a new Sustainability Coordinator position in our FY2021 budget. Our community is now well-positioned to benefit from the production and investment of tax credits for renewable energy, the incentives for electric vehicle and alternative fuel vehicles purchasing, and the deployment of related infrastructure, including the replacement of aging Electric Vehicle charging stations and installing new ones.
We cannot make these infrastructure investments on our own, especially given the revenue challenges presented by the pandemic. We are doing all we can to continue to provide the basic services for our stakeholders for roadways, police, fire, rescue first response, permitting and inspections. Overall the passage of the Moving Forward Act is a game-changer for towns of our size. Morrisville is one of many cities, towns and villages seeking collaborative partnerships to create the infrastructure necessary for our business community to thrive and lead the post-COVID economic recovery, and who are looking to meet the current and future needs of our residents for the quality of life and environmental stewardship.
Here are four ways the Moving Forward Act supports local energy and environment programs:
Improves Water Infrastructure
From aging infrastructure to drought, resilience, and addressing contamination from PFAS and lead, the Moving Forward Act would provide grants, financing mechanisms, innovations and incentives to improve our nation’s water infrastructure.
The biggest investment is in the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs, with a total of $40 billion and $20 billion authorized respectively, and language prioritizing grants over loans to local governments, green infrastructure and efficiency projects.
The bill would also provide grants for municipal sewer overflow and stormwater reuse ($2 billion over five years) and for addressing nonpoint source pollution and PFAS drinking water contamination ($1 billion each over five years).
To support near-term and long-term water supply reliability, the bill provides funding for western water infrastructure while advancing water conservation, water efficiency, and environmental restoration in the Southwest and other western states. The bill provides approximately $3.5 billion for western water infrastructure and drought resiliency measures, including $750 million for sustainable, multi-benefit water storage projects, $500 million for water recycling and reuse projects, and $260 million for water desalination projects.
On the financing side, the bill would remove the federal volume cap for qualified private activity bonds for water and wastewater infrastructure projects, which will make additional private capital available for water projects.
Separately, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is working on a water resources bill to authorize navigation, flood control and ecosystem restoration projects under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to be unveiled later this month.
Promotes Clean Energy
Clean energy and energy efficiency are key tenants of the Moving Forward Act. The bill reauthorizes the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block grant to support local efforts to reduce energy use, diversify energy supplies and improve air quality and the environment.
Additionally, the bill extends the production and investment tax credits for renewable energy and incentivizes electric vehicle and alternative fuel vehicles purchasing and manufacturing.
In total, the bill modernizes our energy infrastructure by investing more than $70 billion to transform the electric grid to accommodate more renewable energy, expand renewable energy, strengthen existing infrastructure, help develop an electric vehicle charging network, and support energy efficiency, weatherization, and Smart Communities infrastructure.
Builds Community Resilience
The bill would help build community resilience to extreme weather events through a multi-sector approach covering transportation, water and disaster preparedness. In the transportation sector, the bill would require Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and states to consider carbon pollution and emissions reduction, climate change, resilience, and hazard mitigation throughout the planning process. It would create a pre-disaster mitigation program, which would receive $6.25 billion in apportioned funds over the life of the bill for resilience projects identified in the state or MPO vulnerability assessment. These funds could also be used to relocate or construct alternatives to transportation infrastructure that is repeatedly damaged by extreme weather events, to address current and future vulnerabilities to evacuation routes, or for disaster recovery, training, and telework programs.
In the water sector, the bill includes funding to strengthen water systems against the threat of climate change. It promotes green and natural infrastructure through the authorization of a $3 billion coastal resiliency fund for shovel-ready coastal restoration projects that restores habitat for fish and wildlife or assists in adaptation to the impacts of climate change, as well as the authorization of $50 million per year for grants for living shoreline projects to increase climate resilience.
Finally, for disaster preparedness, the bill creates grant program for states to establish a Hazard Mitigation Loan Fund for projects that would reduce future risks and costs of natural hazards. Loans would be available to eligible local governments for the purpose of preventing the loss of life and property, the cost of insurance claims, and federal disaster payments via projects to mitigate the risk of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, storm surges, chemical spills and seepage, and any other event deemed catastrophic by FEMA.
Two key programs in the bill would help revitalize communities. First, the bill reauthorizes and increases funding for the brownfields program—up to $550 million for Fiscal Year 2025. NLC successfully lobbied for reauthorization of the program in 2018, as well as key changes to assist with the cleanup and redevelopment of large, complex brownfields sites.
Second, the bill includes the Outdoors For All Act (H.R. 4512), which NLC supports and which would codify and establish a dedicated funding source for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program (ORLP). Established by Congress in 2014 and administered through the National Park Service, ORLP is a competitive grant funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund that helps communities create and improve parks and other outdoor recreation areas to improve public access, particularly in disadvantaged or low-income communities.
Lend Your Voice
This long-awaited and comprehensive infrastructure proposal is welcome news for cities, towns and villages who have been calling for a federal partner to rebuilding and reimagining our nation’s infrastructure, but it will not move forward without Senate support. As local governments continue to feel the fiscal impacts from the coronavirus public health crisis, NLC asks you to reach out to your Senators to brief them on the economic conditions in your city. Here is an easy guide to get you started.
Now is the time for Congress and the administration to “move forward” on infrastructure.
About the Authors:
Carolyn Berndt is the legislative director for sustainability on the NLC Federal Advocacy team. Follow Carolyn on Twitter at @BerndtCarolyn.
TJ Cawley, is Mayor of Morrisville, North Carolina and Chair of NLC’s Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Federal Advocacy Committee. Follow TJ on Twitter at @MSVMayorTJ.