Press Release

On Earth Day, Welch and Kuster Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Invest in Local Communities, Strengthen Transmission Grid

Apr 22, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Earth Day, U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.), member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, and U.S. Representative Annie Kuster (D-N.H.-02) unveiled the Energizing Our Communities Act, legislation to support local communities that host Department of Energy (DOE)-supported transmission projects. The program will help build trust between local governments and transmission developers so our nation can sustainably increase transmission capacity, which is crucial to a national clean energy transition. 

“Expanding transmission lines is key to achieving a clean energy future and ensuring long-term welfare of communities in Vermont, New England, and across the country. But building a comprehensive and reliable transmission grid that connects communities to renewable energy won’t happen overnight. That’s why it’s crucial to support community buy-in programs that work to increase transmission build out at the ground level,” said Sen. Welch, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy. “The Energizing Our Communities Act works to strengthen the nation’s transmission grid by fostering a healthy relationship between communities and developers. This will be critical to boosting clean power capacity nationwide so we can lower energy costs, increase resiliency from extreme weather events, and help meet rising clean energy demands.” 

“If we are going to transition to a clean energy future, it’s critical we expand our energy grid’s transmission capacity,” said Rep. Kuster. “These projects will be a win-win for all by increasing the capacity of clean energy transmission and investing in local communities. This legislation will provide support for economic development, infrastructure and recreation improvements, and conservation and stewardship while promoting a clean energy future.” 

The Energizing Our Communities Act invests revenue from certain federal Department of Energy loan programs back into communities, including tribal governments, who host transmission infrastructure. This bill aims to support national transmission grid build-out by ensuring communities see the benefits of transmission at the ground level.  

The Energizing Our Communities Act is endorsed by Protect Our Winters (POW); REI, VELCO: Vermont Electric Power Company; Grid Action; Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT); National League of Cities (NCL); National Association of Counties (NACo); Pathway Power; and Burton. 

“Advocating for policies that allow communities access to clean air, clean water, and a healthy planet is our responsibility. Communities coast to coast in all seasons are seeing undeniable impacts of climate change. The science is clear, and the moment is now – we need to rapidly scale our ability to get more clean energy onto the grid, and I’m proud to support the Energizing Our Communities Act. This legislation provides real incentives and benefits to communities that host mission-critical transmission infrastructure and hopefully will inspire more YIMBYism (Yes In My Back Yard). This common ground and common sense legislation is about providing community benefits and securing the future of outdoor recreation and the communities that rely on it. It’s time for Congress to take bold action and lead the way for a sustainable future,” said Jeremy Jones, Professional Snowboarder and Founder of Protect Our Winters.  

“At REI, we believe climate change poses an existential threat to our co-op, society, and planet and we aim to halve our emissions over the course of this decade on the pathway to net zero emissions. That’s why we support the Energizing Our Communities Act as a commonsense bill to expand clean energy while investing in outdoor recreation infrastructure, conservation, stewardship, and natural climate solutions in those communities that are helping to transition the U.S. to a clean energy economy,” said Taldi Harrison, Community & Government Affairs Director, REI Co-op.  

“In order to successfully build out the transmission system we need to power America into the 21st century, it’s crucial that landowners and communities are appropriately engaged on and involved in the development process. We applaud Senator Welch and Congresswoman Kuster for putting this legislation together, and look forward to working with them on these issues going forward,” said Christina Hayes, Executive Director, Grid Action.  

“The journey towards a clean energy future requires bold action. As a renewables power producer who loves the outdoors, I’ve seen first-hand how climate change affects our mountains and winter activities. That’s why we at Pathway Power stand firmly with Protect Our Winters (POW) in support of this legislation, enabling the investment in energy infrastructure, like better power lines, that will provide the reliability and resilience to an aging grid when it is needed most. The Energizing Our Communities Act (EOCA) highlights the indispensable role of scaling transmission infrastructure and the need to unlock the full potential of low-cost, zero-carbon energy generation. Just like tackling a tough slope requires the right equipment and preparation, transitioning to clean energy grid demands a robust transmission network to reliably deliver power to homes and businesses. By backing this bill, we’re not just protecting our winters; we’re investing in a cleaner, brighter future for everyone,” said Jam Attari, Founder and Managing Partner at Pathway Power LLC.  

“The clean energy economy is growing in cities, towns and villages across the country,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and Executive Director of the National League of Cities. “The Energizing Our Communities Act recognizes the national value of clean energy infrastructure growth by investing a portion of federal energy loan interest payments back into host communities to support services and programs that residents rely on daily like libraries, parks, community centers, access to broadband technology, workforce training, first-responders and more. The National League of Cities thanks Senator Welch, Representative Kuster and the other bill sponsors for their leadership on the legislation.”   

“Local Governments across the country and here in Vermont want and need new investments in infrastructure. The “Energizing Our Communities Act” will help municipalities do their part in supporting more climate resilient electrical transmission systems” said Ted Brady, VLCT Executive Director.     

“As the state’s transmission utility, Vermont Electric Power Company has designed and built hundreds of miles of transmission lines in harmony with Vermont’s working landscape. We’ve learned firsthand that to do so successfully requires earning community trust. A reliable grid benefits us all but the more specific impacts of our infrastructure fall to particular towns and neighborhoods. That is where the Energizing Our Communities Act (EOCA) is so critical and so timely. Even as we seek to maximize the value from our existing system, VELCO is actively pursuing transmission projects necessary to fulfill our state and regions’ clean energy goals. Federal support of additional tools to earn community support is not only smart, it’s the right thing to do. In our view, enactment of this legislation will ultimately lower energy costs and increase grid resilience,” said Kerrick Johnson, Chief Innovation and Communications Officer, VELCO

“The scale of modern electric transmission projects often requires thoughtful intergovernmental partnership, including finding ways to ensure resources invested in these projects directly benefit the communities that host them,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “Counties applaud Senator Welch and Representative Kuster for their leadership in introducing the ‘Energizing Our Communities Act,’ and encourage its swift passage.” 

“At Burton, we fully acknowledge the urgent need for climate action and the pivotal role clean energy plays in building toward a healthy planet where all people can thrive. We endorse the Energizing Our Communities Act because it not only builds toward a zero carbon energy grid, it also invests and empowers the communities impacted by clean energy development. This dual investment – in infrastructure and community – is vital for building toward the future we all want to see. At Burton, we’ve long been committed to doing our part for the planet – from removing carbon-intensive materials from our products to reducing our environmental footprint through clean energy investments. But we know we alone can’t tackle the scale of the crisis in front of us. We’re proud to support common sense solutions like the EOCA which will help build the infrastructure we all need to move toward a clean energy future,” said Ashley Laporte, Burton VP of Purpose & Impact

Senator Welch has introduced legislation to boost investment in grid-enhancing technologies and increase U.S. power grid capacity and has called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) to strengthen and finalize its proposed transmission planning and cost allocation rule to increase transmission for reliability, affordability, and clean electricity. 

Learn more about the bill. Read the full text of the bill.