Insight

Special Alert | Senate Passed Infrastructure Bill

Key ESG and Regulatory Insights

Amy S. Matsuo

Amy S. Matsuo

ESG and Regulatory Insights Lead, KPMG LLP

The U.S. Senate approved H.R. 3684, or the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” by a vote of 69 to 30. The approved bill text was introduced as an “amendment in the nature of a substitute” to a bill previously passed in the House. The bill now returns to the House for consideration.

Key provisions of the bill are directed toward:

  • Roads and bridges
  • The electric grid
  • Broadband Internet access
  • Transit systems
  • Water infrastructure

Some provisions have a notable relationship to the administration’s ESG-specific Executive Orders and directives to promote racial and economic equity as well as to address climate equity.

Following passage of the Infrastructure Bill, the Senate also passed a “budget blueprint” that outlines a roughly $3.5 trillion bill to be debated this fall. Whether the House will take up consideration of the Infrastructure Bill separately from a budget reconciliation bill is uncertain.

Though final provisions are not yet set, the issues considered and the way in which they are addressed help set precedent in specific areas consistent with the administration’s objectives and changing regulatory focus. Definitions of key terms (e.g., “digital assets,” “digital equity,” and “community connectivity”) may be utilized in part or in whole in regulatory changes and coverages that are still being discussed and/or proposed, such as a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and enhancements/modernization of the Community Reinvestment Act regulations.

Digital Assets

  • New information reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies and other digital assets. In general, these provisions:
  • Define a “broker” to include “any person who (for consideration) is responsible for regularly providing any service effectuating transfers of digital assets on behalf of another person.”
  • Define a “digital asset” as “any digital representation of value which is recorded on a cryptographically secured distributed ledger or any similar technology as specified by the Secretary.”
  • Require brokers to report to the Internal Revenue Service about digital asset transactions occurring during calendar year 2023 in reports to be furnished after December 31, 2023.

Broadband

  • Creation of two grant programs - the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program - within the Department of Commerce (and in consultation with multiple federal agencies, including HUD and FTC) to promote digital equity, digital inclusion activities, build capacity for states regarding broadband availability and spur greater adoption of broadband among covered populations. “Digital equity” would be defined to mean the mean “the condition in which individuals and communities have the information technology capacity that is needed for full participation in the society and economy of the United States.” The programs would be:
  • Directed to specific populations including households with incomes not more than 150 percent of the poverty level, individuals with language barriers (including literacy), individuals with disabilities, aging individuals, and veterans.
  • Administered in collaboration with stakeholders such as community anchor institutions (e.g., library, health clinic, public housing organization, community support organization), educational agencies, political subdivisions or agencies of a state, public or multi-family housing authority, or not-for-profit entities.
  • Complemented by a separate program to build a “middle mile infrastructure” intended to reduce the cost of connecting to unserved and underserved areas to the Internet, including Tribal and Native group lands.
  • Extension of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and renaming it to the Affordable Connectivity Benefit, subject to oversight by the FCC and consumer protections such as those related to inappropriate upselling or downselling, inappropriate tied sales or restrictions, or “unjust and unreasonable acts or practices.”
  • New final rules from the FCC to “facilitate equal access to broadband internet access service” and prevent digital discrimination of access based on income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin.

Cybersecurity

  • Creation of grant programs. A fund would be created to help federal, state, local, and Tribal entities as well as public and private entities to respond to and recover from significant cyber incidents. To be administered through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. A separate fund, the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program, would be established within DHS to help State, local and Tribal governments address cybersecurity risks and cybersecurity threats to information systems that they own or operate. The program would include set sides for rural communities.
  • Additional provisions would address strengthening cybersecurity defenses in relation to the electrical grid and the water supply.

Other

  • Community connectivity. A pilot program that would provide funding for eligible entities to identify opportunities to restore community connectivity, which might involve removing or retrofitting current traffic patterns and/or transportation networks. Priority would be given to economically disadvantaged communities. (Purpose is to address federal transportation policies that had the effect of reinforcing racial and economic inequality.)
  • Fueling infrastructure. A grant program that would provide funding for increasing publicly accessible electric vehicle charging infrastructure, hydrogen fueling infrastructure, propane fueling infrastructure, and natural gas fueling infrastructure along designated alternative fuel corridors or in certain locations that will be accessible to all drivers of electric, hydrogen, propane, and natural gas vehicles.
  • Electric/clean fuel fleets. A grant/award program that would provide funding for replacing school buses with clean school buses and zero-emission school buses. A similar program would be established as a pilot for the purchase of electric or low-emitting ferries.

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