Action by U.S. House Would Formally Authorize Clean Cities Program and Make Major Investments in Cle

With the pandemic thoroughly dominating news reported out of our nation’s capital, it’s been easy to lose track of major developments that could, if enacted, change the course of clean transportation in America.

On July 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Moving America Forward Act, by a vote of 233 to 188. The bill broadly addresses infrastructure of all types. As part of that, it would make several federal investments in clean vehicles and infrastructure, described below:

  • Extends the tax incentives for biodiesel and for natural gas and propane with a phase-down, through 2025.

  • Extends the tax credit for alternative fueling infrastructure through 2025 and expands the credit for electric charging infrastructure by allowing a 20% credit for expenses in excess of $100,000.

  • Increases the production cap for the electric vehicle tax credit to 600,000 per manufacturer and allows purchasers to receive a credit of $7,000.

  • Provides a new tax credit for the purchase of zero emission heavy duty vehicles and zero emission buses.

  • Provides $350 million a year in competitive grants for alternative fueling infrastructure established on corridors designated by the FHWA.

  • Establishes Community Climate Innovation grants of $250 million per year for local investments in innovative strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Provides $1.7 billion for zero-emission bus grants.

  • Authorizes $50 million for the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities Program for fiscal year 2021 and increases the authorization each year, reaching $100 million in fiscal year 2025.

  • Creates a $500 million a year Zero Emissions Ports Infrastructure Program.

  • Authorizes $3.5 billion a year for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, which can be used by cities and counties to implement strategies to advance alternative fuels, vehicles, and infrastructure.

  • Reauthorizes EPA's DERA, the diesel emissions reduction program, at $500 million a year. This program has been a mainstay in Virginia's diesel emissions mitigation efforts.

  • Reauthorizes the Clean School Bus Program at $65 million a year.

  • Establishes a pilot program for the electrification of certain refrigerated vehicles.

  • Supports the Postal Service to replace at least 75 percent of its fleet with electric or zero emission vehicles and authorizes at least $6 billion for the purchase of new vehicles.

Notably, the bill also would formally authorize the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program. Clean Cities was created by the U.S. DOE in 1993 following passage of the Energy Policy Act of that year, but in 27 years, Congress has never enshrined the program in statute. This has left the program vulnerable to elimination – something two separate administrations have tried to do. Each time, under the leadership of Transportation Energy Partners, Clean Cities coalitions and industry allies, have fought off elimination.

“Formally authorizing Clean Cities solidifies and acknowledges the work this program has put in for over 25 years,” said Alleyn Harned, President of Transportation Energy Partners and Virginia Clean Cities Executive Director. “This has been a major priority for all of all clean cities coalitions. As Congress acts, this can be an historic achievement.”

The full text if H.R. 2 is available here. The language authorizing Clean Cities can be found by scrolling to 1525-28 of the bill. H.R. 2 now moves to the Senate. However, with fall elections looming, Senate action is unclear. It may be during the “lame duck” session following the elections. It’s also possible that the new Congress will need to introduce a new bill early in 2021.

“The Senate needs to act on this legislation,” said Sam Spofforth, Executive Director of Clean Fuels Ohio. “Anyone in Ohio who supports clean transportation should contact Senator Sherrod Brown at (202) 224-2315 and Senator Rob Portman at (202)-224-3353 respectively. Email forms are available on their websites."

In addition to H.R. 2, the full House Appropriations Committee is set to act on a broad, separate package of federal clean transportation investments. See the full list below. The Senate is working on a separate appropriations bill. Once approved, differences will be negotiated. Congress could pass full appropriations legislation by September 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. However, it’s more likely that Congress will pass a short-term “continuing resolution” (CR) to extend federal spending authority for a period of weeks or months, then potentially pass a new spending bill later.

The House Energy and Water Appropriations bill includes:

  • $43 million for the Clean Cities program, a $500,000 increase over last year. (See attached for Clean Cities report language in the bill)

  • $730 million in emergency funds for the State Energy Program.

  • $2 million in emergency funds for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants to cities and counties.

  • $1 billion in emergency funds for the Vehicles Technologies Office to develop electric and alternative vehicle infrastructure.

  • $250 million in emergency funds for battery supply chain support through the DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office

  • $100 million in emergency funds for the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office for H2@Scale demonstration and deployment activities related to hydrogen production, storage, transport, and infrastructure.

The House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill includes $90 million for the DERA grants, an increase of $3 million over last year. In addition, it includes an additional $450 million in emergency funds for the DERA program.

The House Transportation HUD Appropriations bill includes:

  • Improved language regarding Buy America waivers that should enable CMAQ to resume funding of alt. fuel vehicles. (See attached for bill language)

  • $632 million in emergency funds to install “charging” infrastructure under the Alternative Fuel Corridors Program.

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