Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, has introduced a bill that would expand leasing for offshore oil and gas drilling and allow the Treasury Department to use the revenue to issue bonds, the proceeds of which would eventually go into the highway trust fund and state revolving loan funds.
“This legislation is a creative, simple solution to rising energy costs, high unemployment, and our aging infrastructure,” Stivers said in a release about the American-Made Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (HR 2784).
Revenue from new offshore drilling leases would be deposited in an infrastructure trust account. The U.S. Treasury could then use that money to issue $25 billion of the infrastructure bonds each year from 2014 through 2019.
The proceeds from the bond sales to go back into the infrastructure trust account, according to staff in Stivers’ office.
Both the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency would have access to the infrastructure trust account. DOT would be able to use 95% of the infrastructure revenue bond proceeds for the Highway Trust Fund, a pool of federal money used to support highways and other surface-transportation projects. Additionally, EPA would be able to use 5% of the bond proceeds, to be split evenly between the state revolving loan funds for wastewater treatment and drinking water facilities.
Money from the HTF is sometimes used by state and local governments to back bonds known as grant anticipation revenue vehicles, or Garvees.
The HTF is primarily stocked by motor fuel taxes but has fallen on hard times in recent years due to the Great Recession, increased vehicle fuel-efficiency and declining driving rates. Congress has authorized general fund transfers to the highway trust fund to keep it solvent during the past several years. The HTF is expected to become insolvent in fiscal 2015 without further congressional action.
Stivers’ bill, introduced in July, is co-sponsored by Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La. It has been referred to subcommittees of the House Committees on National Resources, Ways and Means, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Energy and Committee.
Stivers previously introduced similar legislation. It was included the energy portion of the House’s multi-year highway reauthorization bill, which was approved by the House in February 2012, but failed to move forward in the Senate.