Energizing Our Communities Act (EOCA) For Dummies


Big news! POW is thrilled to announce the introduction of the Energizing Our Communities Act to Congress, a bill sponsored by Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH), to help move the needle to a clean energy future. We know that you’d rather be out in the mountains than reading policy documents, so we caught up with Ben Gubits, POW’s VP of Advocacy & Campaigns to break it down for you.

POW: In a couple of sentences, tell me about what the Energizing Our Communities Act is.

Ben Gubits: The Energizing Our Communities Act is a new proposal in Congress that aims to unlock the full potential of renewable energy by providing benefits to communities that host critical infrastructure. Developing this infrastructure is key to achieving our nation’s clean energy and climate goals, but it cannot happen without the involvement and support of the communities that are impacted. Clean energy generation from wind and solar is booming across the county and more transmission is needed in order to move that energy from where it is generated to where it is needed. This means more communities across the country are being asked to host energy projects (high voltage transmission lines, substations and other infrastructure) and we believe communities should benefit from the development projects they host. That is exactly what the Energizing Our Communities Act will do.

Photo by Jeremiah Watt

POW: What initiatives are included in the bill?

BG: Okay, we’re gonna get a little wonky here, so bear with me. 

The Energizing Our Communities Act invests funds derived from the interest collected on federal loan programs back into communities, including tribal governments, that host transmission and other energy infrastructure. Specifically, this bill modifies several Department of Energy (DOE) programs to ensure counties receive compensation for transmission lines and other energy infrastructure built within their jurisdiction. To do so, the bill will leverage interest rates of the Transmission Facilitation Program (42 U.S.C. 18713), the Transmission Facility Financing Program (42 U.S.C. 18715), and the Transmission Infrastructure Program of the Western Area Power Administration (as well as other applicable programs). A portion of the interest that is paid back to the Treasury is allocated for a Community Economic Development Transmission Fund to be awarded to communities that host transmission infrastructure. 

The funds going to communities are mostly unrestricted (80%) for jurisdictions to spend on needs within the community… think…. roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, libraries, first responders, etc. However, 20% of the fund will be allocated for outdoor recreation access, conservation and stewardship and natural climate solutions. 

POW: What was the background story of why POW wanted to create this bill? 

BG: Starting in 2021, POW spent two years lobbying for the passage of the bipartisan ‘Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act’ and the landmark ‘Inflation Reduction Act’, the most important climate bills ever passed into law. These historic bills invested billions of dollars in the rapid deployment of clean energy. After passage, the next challenge was to implement and unlock the full potential of those investments. But where did POW fit into this massive challenge of implementation?

POW Alliance members and staff meeting with Arjun Krishnaswami, the Special Advisor to the Chief of Staff to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy | Photo by Donny O’Neill

Starting in early 2023, POW consulted dozens of public and private sector stakeholders, including DOE, the Department of the Interior (DOI), members of Congress and their staff, clean energy think tanks and energy developers. We repeatedly heard the same concern: impacted communities need to see tangible benefits from this essential transmission infrastructure. Local opposition to new development due to lack of community benefit is partly responsible for the failure to scale new development. Responsible deployment of affordable energy and transmission development must, therefore, tangibly support local communities. As so many members of the Outdoor State™ live in places where this infrastructure is needed, we believed this was a small piece of the puzzle that POW could focus on and help scale the critical buildout of clean energy to meet our climate goals.

POW: Why is POW the right organization to be creating this bill?

BG: First and foremost, As members of the Outdoor State™, we’re recreating on the land where much of the renewable energy infrastructure will be built. We want it done responsibly and in a way that will benefit the communities in which we’re working. The Outdoor State™ must play a key role in driving the clean energy transition. Scaling transmission capacity and affordable and exportable clean energy is essential to reducing the impact of climate change and we believe the communities that host this mission-critical infrastructure should benefit from their part in the effort.

Photo by Micheli Oliver

We need more transmission, whether it’s for reliability, increased renewables, or both. A lot of incredibly smart individuals and organizations are working on transmission-focused legislation, it is a vital component to increasing our nation’s renewable energy resources and combating climate change. However, POW is uniquely positioned to complement this work because the outdoor industry is directly impacted by climate change and because we strive to find common ground, common sense energy and climate solutions. This effort has been years in the making and is the result of cross-partisan work. We are thrilled to be helping to push this effort forward and ensure the fight against climate change supports all communities involved.

POW: Who will benefit from this bill? 

BG: Any community that hosts this transmission infrastructure through the use of federal government loans. These funds are not tied to any long, complicated and often inequitable grant processes. Host communities are automatically eligible for these community benefit funds.

POW: Can you give some background on what it took to get to this point?

BG: Oh boy…. Well, first, it’s not a secret that the 118th Congress has been a bit of a mess. Debt ceiling negotiations, ousted Speakers and extreme intransigence have not led to the easiest political environment to pass new legislation. Even common ground and common sense solutions like the Energizing Our Communities Act are challenging to get across the finish line in Congress. POW has had several trips to Capitol Hill, where we’ve had very productive meetings with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.

POW Alliance members and staff at a Lobby Day on Capitol Hill | Photo by Donny O’Neill

After countless meetings on the Hill, we could not be more thrilled to have Rep. Annie Kuster (NH) lead on this proposal in the House of Representatives. Rep. Kuster is also the co-chair of the Congressional Ski and Snowboard caucus! In addition, we’re so excited to have Senator Peter Welch (VT) lead this effort in the Senate!

POW: What’s coming next? How will this bill become law? 

BG: There are several different paths this bill can take. It’s unlikely the bill would be passed as a stand alone bill, but here’s the process for what that would look like:

Sen. Welch introduced the Energizing Our Communities Act bill in the Senate, marking the initial step in the federal legislative process. The bill will now undergo a series of deliberations and debates within relevant Senate committees, where its provisions are reviewed, amended and refined. These committees may hold hearings to gather expert opinions and public feedback on the proposed legislation. Following committee review, the bill is presented for consideration before the full Senate chamber. Here, senators engage in further discussion, offering amendments and voting on its passage.

In the House, the Energizing Our Communities Act undergoes a similar process of committee review and debate. Rep. Annie Kuster will introduce the bill and House committees analyze the bill’s implications and potential effects, refining its language as necessary. Subsequently, the bill would proceed to the House floor if it is voted favorably out of committee, where representatives engage in discussions, propose amendments and ultimately vote on its passage. If the House approves the bill with a majority vote, it proceeds to the next stage: reconciliation. Here, any differences between the Senate and House versions are reconciled through a conference committee or by sending amendments back and forth between the chambers until a unified version is agreed upon. Once both chambers agree on a final version, the bill is sent to the President for signature, completing the journey from proposal to federal law.

As mentioned, the Senate is not focusing on passing ‘one-off’ bills and only large packages (budget deals, defense spending, etc). There is a scenario where, after introduction, proponents and sponsors of the bill can work to attach it to existing legislation that is similar in subject matter. That could come in the form of adding as an amendment to something like an anticipated permitting reform bill, an active conversation in Congress currently.

The chance of passage in the House of Representatives is slim in this current Congress. That’s why we need members of the Outdoor State™ to encourage their elected officials to support the bill!

POW: How can the Outdoor State™ support the passage of this bill? 

BG: At the helm of the advocacy charge for the EOCA is Protect Our Winters, ready to take action with the sponsorship of specific members of Congress. POW knows that to make some noise, you need more than just a loudspeaker – you need a groundswell of outdoor enthusiasts on your side. POW plans on teaming up with various partners to crank up the volume and get this bill noticed. With POW leading the charge, we can utilize the long-lasting partnerships that we’ve developed over the years to amplify the messaging. Not to mention that POW has an extensive Alliance team full of incredible creatives, athletes, scientists and brand partners that can individually spread the message as a call to action to get the EOCA passed.

Photo by Stephen Shelesky

POW isn’t just about making noise, though. We’re about collective action. That’s why POW wants to get the Outdoor State™ to utilize their voices, marketing engines and supporters to contact Congress with persuasive messages. Whether it’s through emails or calls, POW is making sure every outdoor lover has an opportunity to engage!

Help POW push this legislation across the finish line by writing to your lawmakers today!