McConnell, Capito Reject Federal Push To Prioritize Green Projects For Infrastructure Funding

McConnell, Capito reject federal push to prioritize green projects for infrastructure funding

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Infrastructure has once again taken center stage in the US as lawmakers and the Biden administration look to implement the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), but on Wednesday top Senate Republicans took issue with a federal push to prioritize “wish list” policies.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., And ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., sent a letter to 50 governors in an attempt to counter a December memo that emphasized how states could use federal resources to “Build a Better America.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell looks on as Sen.  Shelley Moore Capito speaks to reporters at the Capitol.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell looks on as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito speaks to reporters at the Capitol.
(Pete Marovich / Bloomberg via Getty Images / File)

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The Federal Highway Administration on Dec. 16 sent out a memorandum that highlighted a “framework” for policies that should be “prioritize[d]”To ensure federal funds were used to upgrade US infrastructure in a sustainable and equitable manner.

But McConnell and Capito took issue with the memo and argued it “attempt[ed] to implement a wish list of policies not reflected in the IIJA. “

“These policies, such as discouraging projects that increase highway capacity and prioritizing projects that advance non-motorized transportation options, differ from the provisions negotiated and agreed to in law,” the GOP letter obtained by Gadget Clock Digital read.

The memo sent to US governors encouraged state officials to use the funds granted to them under the 1.2 trillion bill signed by President Biden in November to improve existing roads and bridges, as well as road safety.

President Joe Biden shakes hands with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

President Joe Biden shakes hands with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

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But the federal memo warns that expanding roadways that acquire more than a “minor amount of right-of-way or that would result in any residential or non-residential displacements” would not be exempt under the FHWA’s National Environmental Policy Act and may not be. permitted to use federal funds.

Instead, bike and pedestrian paths, public transportation systems and “future-proof” infrastructure were encouraged.

Investment in electric charging stations, renewable energy generation and broadband deployment were listed as top priorities by the federal transportation agency.

But McConnell and Capito pushed back on these recommendations and argued they were never a part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year.

“Nothing in the IIJA provides FHWA with the authority to dictate how states should use their federal formula funding, nor prioritizes public transit or bike paths over new roads and bridges,” they argue. “The FHWA memorandum is an internal document, has no effect of law, and states should treat it as such.”

Gadget Clock could not immediately reach the FHWA for comment.

It is unclear if state governors interpreted the memo in the same controversial light as GOP lawmakers, but during the National Governors Association late last month Democrats and Republican state officials said they had an “appetite” for bipartisanship in rolling out the multitrillion-dollar act.

Arkansas Gov.  Asa Hutchinson, chairman of the National Governors Association

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, chairman of the National Governors Association
(Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“I think America – regardless of which side of the issue you’re on – overwhelmingly wants us to find a way to come together,” New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy told Gadget Clock Digital. “You have to be realistic.

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“On some list of issues, it’s just not going to happen,” he continued. “But there’s an equally compelling, if not more so, list of areas where we can actually come together.”

The chairman of the NGA, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, echoed those sentiments and said, “To accomplish something, you’ve got to work across the aisle to get something done.”

“Governors illustrate that more than anyone, whether it’s infrastructure or whether it’s my initiative on computer science education, or whether it’s the pandemic,” he added.

Kelsey Koberg contributed to this report.

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