Highway Bill Markup Begins in House

The partisan legislation discourages private sector investment in EV charging infrastructure.

June 18, 2020

By Paige Anderson

WASHINGTON—The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee yesterday began a marathon markup of H.R. 2, the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act. NACS, NATSO and SIGMA joined together to urge committee members to oppose the legislation because it discourages private investment in electric vehicle (EV) charging and would stifle the market’s transition to EVs.

The bill would authorize $494 billion over five years for surface transportation, including $411 billion to be invested in the Highway Trust Fund. H.R. 2 also includes several climate mitigation policy initiatives, such as requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish a new greenhouse gas emissions performance measure and creating a program to support carbon pollution reductions.

The hearing is one of the first committee markups to be held in the coronavirus era of social distancing and remote-work technologies. Despite the technical challenges, the committee began slogging through the 200-plus amendments filed to the bill. The first couple of hours of the hearing were dominated by member opening statements, with Republican members critical of the process and the lack of bipartisan input in developing the INVEST in America Act. 

During the amendment process there were a couple of rare bipartisan moments. Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) supported an amendment by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) to ensure transit agencies do not use CARES Act funding to buy rolling stock from companies owned or subsidized by the Chinese government. Later in the hearing, an amendment offered by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), and supported by several Republican representatives, passed by a vote of 37-26.  The amendment  allows natural gas and propane projects  to receive grants under the alternative fuel corridor grants program in the bill.

Ahead of the hearing, NACS, along with NATSO and SIGMA, yesterday sent a joint industry letter to members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee opposing H.R. 2 and encouraging members to vote against the bill. In this rare and unprecedented event, the group shared concern over two provisions critical to the fuel retailing industry. Both issues will hamper private sector investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and discourage the convenience and fuel retailing community from offering electric vehicle charging to EV drivers.

Specifically, the Manager’s Amendment included language that would provide an exception for EV charging to the federal law prohibiting the sale of food, fuel and other services at rest areas. NACS has long opposed the commercialization of rest areas, and this provision undermines the longstanding federal law that has been essential to encouraging businesses such as convenience and fuel retailers to invest in locations just off the interstate. 

The second issue of concern is a provision in the alternative fuels corridor grant program (Sec. 1303) that would allow investor-owned utilities to “double-dip” by receiving federal grants, even if they have already raised electricity rates on all of their customers to pay for EV charging infrastructure investment. 

The group supported the bipartisan highway reauthorization bill passed last summer by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which also included grants for EV charging infrastructure along highway corridors but without commercializing rest areas or encouraging electric utilities to double-dip.

The committee continued amendment debate late into the evening and will continue today. H.R. 2 is expected to pass on a party-line vote and come to the floor of the House of Representatives before the Independence Day holiday.

Paige Anderson is the NACS director of government relationtions.