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Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Passes the Senate

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Environmental & Regulatory Policy Advisor
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by Amanda A. Reeve

Arizona’s Senior U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema is credited as being instrumental in negotiating the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, H.R. 3684, entitled “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (“INVEST in America Act”), as amended, that passed with bipartisan support (69-30) in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. It now returns to the House for final passage (should there be no additional changes to the bill) before landing on the President’s desk.

After months of negotiations with the White House, Senator Sinema, along with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) led a collaboration of eight other senators (four from each party) in the crafting of the Senate Amendment 2137 (“SA 2137”) amending H.R. 3684. SA 2137 was introduced on August 1, 2021 and debated in the Senate for almost two weeks. During this debate period numerous other amendments were given consideration, several of which were adopted to SA 2137.

In its Cost Estimate report to the Senate for consideration, the Congressional Budget office estimates that SA 2137 to H.R. 3684 over the 2021-2031 period will add, on net, $256 billion to the projected federal budget deficits. However, Senators Sinema and Portman stressed that the spending will be offset through a combination of new revenue and savings, in addition to the “historic investments in repairing and upgrading America’s critical infrastructure.”

Highlighting a select few of the many measures and funding provisions introduced in the bipartisan crafted SA 2137 include, as follows:

Wildfire Mitigation and Recovery Measures

  • $250 million – remediation of Forest Service legacy roads and trails
  • $2.4 billion – forest mitigation (thinning, prescribed fires, etc.)

Water Systems and Drought Resilience Measures

  • $8.3 billion – building and strengthening water infrastructure (water storage, drought contingency plans, desalination, dam safety, water recycling, etc.)
  • $15 billion – lead replacement within water infrastructure
  • $10 billion – addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) contamination

Power Grids and Energy Infrastructure

  • $32 billion approximately – investment in clean energy technologies (carbon-capture, energy efficiency, solar energy on mine land, etc.)
  • $7 billion approximately – mapping America’s critical minerals essential to clean energy products and infrastructure; funding for advanced energy technologies, etc.
  • $16 billion – funding to plug orphan wells and conduct abandoned mine land reclamation activities, etc.

Upon successfully passing SA 2137 to H.R. 3684, Senator Sinema provided final remarks on the significance of the bill to further encourage her colleagues’ support of the amended H.R. 3684. She urged her colleagues that the passing of the bipartisan crafted legislation will provide for repairing and upgrading transportation projects and infrastructure; deploying high-speed broadband to remote areas across the country; improving wastewater and drinking water infrastructures to ensure cleaner and more reliable water; investing in the power infrastructures to provide stronger grids; repairing and upgrading airport infrastructures to make them safer and more convenient; investing in fire suppression activities to protect against wildfires; etc.

While these bipartisan efforts were rewarded with bipartisan support for H.R. 3684 in the Senate, the bill has yet to receive final passage in the House. As the House has recessed until September, it may be awhile before we learn the final fate of the INVEST in America Act. However, there is also a possibility that House Speaker Pelosi calls the House members back to D.C. to land H.R. 3684 on the President’s desk as quickly as possible.