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Garamendi Secures Major Wins for California and the Environment in Infrastructure Bill

June 19, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) secured key provisions to rebuild California’s transportation infrastructure, increase resilience to the effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed the “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act,” a 5-year, nearly $500 billion investment in our nation’s infrastructure and key component of the “Moving Forward” infrastructure plan unveiled by Congressional Democrats earlier this year. The bill now heads to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass with strong Democratic support in early July.

“We must modernize California’s transportation network and address the climate crisis with infrastructure that is smarter, safer, made to last and reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” said Congressman Garamendi. “The key provisions I secured in this 5-year highway bill will make our roads, bridges, and public transit more resilient to climate change and better meet our state’s future transportation needs. California is the fifth largest economy in the world, and it’s time that our public infrastructure looked the part. Rebuilding our nation’s aging infrastructure with American workers and materials remains a top priority for me in Congress.”

“California has a long and successful track record performing federal responsibilities for environmental decisions and approvals under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Through ‘NEPA Assignment,’ California has been able to cut the regulatory burden on thousands of transportation projects, saving months and even years in approving environmental documents.  Congressman Garamendi’s efforts will help us deliver transportation projects more efficiently, save the taxpayers money and speed our economic recovery from COVID-19,” said Secretary David S. Kim, California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA). 

The INVEST in America Act safeguards our environment and prepares our critical infrastructure to withstand the impacts of climate change by:

  • Measuring state-by-state greenhouse gas emissions and creating incentives for best performers in carbon pollution reduction. Creates a new program to fund resilient infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change.
  • Increasing funding to develop charging stations and other alternative fueling options for electric and zero-emissions vehicles.
  • Doubling funding for technology deployment to increase innovation. Creates a new program to fund green materials research and to deploy green construction materials and practices to create smarter, more efficient transportation systems.
  • Increasing investment in zero-emission buses to reduce carbon pollution.
  • Tripling funding for Amtrak to $29 billion over five years, allowing for improvement and expansion of the nation’s passenger rail network. This gives travelers a reliable, low-carbon option to travel both short and long distances, including to regions that lack frequent or affordable airport service.

Congressman Garamendi, a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, secured the following key provisions in this Highway Bill (H.R.2):

  • Federal Funding for Evacuating Routes: The legislation includes several provisions to provide federal highway funding for projects that improve routes for mass evacuations during natural disasters or emergencies. Congressman Garamendi’s related “ESCAPE Act” (H.R.2838) is included in the Senate’s bipartisan Highway Bill (S.2302). 
  • Safeguard Disaster-Recovery Funds for California: The bill includes Congressman Garamendi’s “Transportation Emergency Relief Funds Availability Act” (H.R.3193), which safeguards federal funding for disaster-recovery transportation projects statewide. In January 2019, the Trump Administration informed the California Department of Transportation’s (Caltrans) it was denying 1-year extensions for 66 out of 73 emergency-relief projects statewide and would proceed with clawing back federal funding. The bill repeals the current 2-year regulatory deadline and provides up to 6 years for transportation projects funded through an Emergency Relief Program to advance to construction.
  • Support Bay Area Commuter Ferry Expansion: Increases annual funding for the Federal Highway Administration’s “Ferry Boats and Ferry Terminal Facilities Formula-Grant Program” to $120 million and the Federal Transit Administration’s “Passenger Ferry Competitive Grant Program” to $64 million, to support the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (Golden Gate Commuter Ferry) proposed ferry service upgrades and terminal expansion.
  • Garamendi Amendment #124: Expands “Buy American” requirements for federally funded highway projects to also include US-made and sourced building "construction materials,” such as including plastic and polymer-based products, concrete and other aggregates, glass (including fiber optic glass), lumber, drywall, etc. The normal exemptions to “Buy American” requirements would still apply, and just like “manufactured products” under current law, discretion would remain with the U.S. Department of Transportation to determine which construction materials are covered. This amendment is from Rep. Garamendi’s “Made in America Act” (H.R.3459), which is cosponsored by Reps. Rouda (D-CA), Sires (D-NJ), and Finkenauer (D-IA). It is supported by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, AFL-CIO, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), and nearly every other major labor union in the construction trades. Taxpayer money should be spent on American-made construction materials and American workers to rebuild and modernize our nation’s critical infrastructure.
  • Garamendi Amendment #126: Lengthens the agreement terms allowing states selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation to complete required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) work including for “categorical exclusions” for any federally funded projects, on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration. This amendment does not make any changes, whatsoever, to environmental planning requirements under NEPA or federal permitting requirements. The agreement terms in this amendment, from 5 to 10 years, were specifically requested by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which has a proven track record of completing this work.
  • Garamendi Amendment #128: Directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to finally implement a pilot program eliminating duplicate state environmental reviews. For California, this would finally allow local transportation agencies to use completed documents under the California Environmental Quality Act to satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act: achieving so-called “CEQA-NEPA equivalency.” Given our robust state environmental reviews, California is one of the few states likely eligible for this new federal pilot program. Congress authorized this pilot program in 2015 under the FAST Act (2015 Highway Bill), but it has never been implemented because USDOT has simply not finished the needed regulations. This amendment is supported by the California State Association of Counties, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and many local transportation agencies in our state.
  • Garamendi Amendment #133: Increases from 2 to 6 fiscal years the Federal Transit Administration's deadline to reach the “construction obligation phase” for federally funded “emergency relief” projects. This amendment draws directly from Rep. Garamendi’s “Transportation Emergency Relief Funds Availability Act” (H.R.3193), which is cosponsored by Reps. Napolitano, Huffman, Brownley, Lowenthal, DeSaulnier, Carbajal, Rouda, and the entire California Democratic delegation. Congress must not allow federal agencies to claw back money that has already been awarded to local disaster-recovery projects, due to arbitrary and counterproductive deadlines. 

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