Timely Review of Infrastructure Act
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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 1426) to amend the Department of Energy Organization Act to address insufficient compensation of employees and other personnel of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and for other purposes.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of the bill is as follows: H.R. 1426
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Timely Review of Infrastructure Act''. SEC. 2. ADDRESSING INSUFFICIENT COMPENSATION OF EMPLOYEES AND OTHER PERSONNEL OF THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION.
(a) In General.--Section 401 of the Department of Energy Organization Act (42 U.S.C. 7171) is amended by adding at the end the following:
``(k) Addressing Insufficient Compensation of Employees and Other Personnel of the Commission.--
``(1) In general.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the Chairman publicly certifies that compensation for a category of employees or other personnel of the Commission is insufficient to retain or attract employees and other personnel to allow the Commission to carry out the functions of the Commission in a timely, efficient, and effective manner, the Chairman may fix the compensation for the category of employees or other personnel without regard to chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code, or any other civil service law.
``(2) Certification requirements.--A certification issued under paragraph (1) shall--
``(A) apply with respect to a category of employees or other personnel responsible for conducting work of a scientific, technological, engineering, or mathematical nature;
``(B) specify a maximum amount of reasonable compensation for the category of employees or other personnel;
``(C) be valid for a 5-year period beginning on the date on which the certification is issued;
``(D) be no broader than necessary to achieve the objective of retaining or attracting employees and other personnel to allow the Commission to carry out the functions of the Commission in a timely, efficient, and effective manner; and
``(E) include an explanation for why the other approaches available to the Chairman for retaining and attracting employees and other personnel are inadequate.
``(A) In general.--Not later than 90 days before the date of expiration of a certification issued under paragraph (1), the Chairman shall determine whether the certification should be renewed for a subsequent 5-year period.
``(B) Requirement.--If the Chairman determines that a certification should be renewed under subparagraph (A), the Chairman may renew the certification, subject to the certification requirements under paragraph (2) that were applicable to the initial certification.
``(4) New hires.--
``(A) In general.--An employee or other personnel that is a member of a category of employees or other personnel that would have been covered by a certification issued under paragraph (1), but was hired during a period in which the certification has expired and has not been renewed under paragraph (3) shall not be eligible for compensation at the level that would have applied to the employee or other personnel if the certification had been in effect on the date on which the employee or other personnel was hired.
``(B) Compensation of new hires on renewal.--On renewal of a certification under paragraph (3), the Chairman may fix the compensation of the employees or other personnel described in subparagraph (A) at the level established for the category of employees or other personnel in the certification.
``(5) Retention of level of fixed compensation.--A category of employees or other personnel, the compensation of which was fixed by the Chairman in accordance with paragraph (1), may, at the discretion of the Chairman, have the level of fixed compensation for the category of employees or other personnel retained, regardless of whether a certification described under that paragraph is in effect with respect to the compensation of the category of employees or other personnel.
``(6) Consultation required.--The Chairman shall consult with the Director of the Office of Personnel Management in implementing this subsection, including in the determination of the amount of compensation with respect to each category of employees or other personnel.
``(7) Experts and consultants.--
``(A) In general.--Subject to subparagraph (B), the Chairman may--
``(i) obtain the services of experts and consultants in accordance with section 3109 of title 5, United States Code;
``(ii) compensate those experts and consultants for each day (including travel time) at rates not in excess of the rate of pay for level IV of the Executive Schedule under section 5315 of that title; and
``(iii) pay to the experts and consultants serving away from the homes or regular places of business of the experts and consultants travel expenses and per diem in lieu of subsistence at rates authorized by sections 5702 and 5703 of that title for persons in Government service employed intermittently.
``(B) Limitations.--The Chairman shall--
``(i) to the maximum extent practicable, limit the use of experts and consultants pursuant to subparagraph (A); and
``(ii) ensure that the employment contract of each expert and consultant employed pursuant to subparagraph (A) is subject to renewal not less frequently than annually.''.
(1) In general.--Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, and every 2 years thereafter for 10 years, the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission shall submit to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate a report on information relating to hiring, vacancies, and compensation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
(2) Inclusions.--Each report under paragraph (1) shall include--
(A) an analysis of any trends with respect to hiring, vacancies, and compensation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and
(B) a description of the efforts to retain and attract employees or other personnel responsible for conducting work of a scientific, technological, engineering, or mathematical nature at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
(c) Applicability.--The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply beginning on the date that is 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act.
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Mr. PALLONE. 1426.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1426, the Timely Review of Infrastructure Act. This bipartisan bill was introduced by Representatives Olson and Doyle. I would like to thank both of them for their hard work on this bill.
H.R. 1426 ensures that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, has the resources and personnel it needs to review and analyze energy infrastructure projects.
H.R. 1426 addresses insufficient compensation of employees and other personnel by amending the Department of Energy Organization Act to grant the FERC Chairman additional authority to adjust compensation for a category of employees and other personnel without regard to certain civil service laws.
The Commission must be able to hire and retain sufficiently experienced employees so that complex and highly technical environmental reviews are conducted in as rigorous a manner as possible. Better staffing by the best and brightest people means better environmental outcomes, better energy outcomes, and better outcomes for consumers.
I appreciate my colleagues' hard work on this legislation.
I particularly want to offer my best wishes to the sponsor of this bill, Representative Olson, who is retiring at the end of this Congress. I have always worked with him on a bipartisan basis and enjoy spending time with him because he has a real sense of humor.
While we often disagree on policy, he has always been fair-minded and a man of his convictions. When he is with us, it is hard to imagine a better partner.
That is particularly true regarding the work we have been doing with Chairman Tonko and many others from both parties on legislation to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons. He and his staff have been true leaders in pushing forward that legislation, which, if we can get it done, will be a major win for our manufacturers, our economy, and our environment.
I thank the gentleman for his service to our committee and to our country. I wish you all the best in the next chapter of your life, Pete, absolutely.
I thank my colleagues for their efforts and urge passage of the bill.
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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I have no additional speakers on this side, so
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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I urge support for the legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. MICHAEL F. DOYLE of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that today the House will consider the Timely Review of Infrastructure Act introduced by Representative Pete Olson of Texas and myself. I would like to thank Mr. Olson for his leadership and partnership on this bill and commend him and his staff on their tireless efforts to get it across the finish line.
The United States has always been a global leader when it comes to energy development and that is just a true today as it has ever been. However, in order to maintain and grow our energy sector, we need to ensure that we are building the necessary energy infrastructure to do so. Investing in our domestic infrastructure is more important than ever as we look to get through the current health crisis and rebuild our economy.
Indeed, just as we passed the Water Resources Development Act yesterday, today we have an opportunity to pass a bill that, while smaller in scale, will help hasten the buildout of critical energy infrastructure such as hydroelectric dams, pipelines, transmission equipment, and energy terminals. This will not only help the economy recover but will ensure that we have a secure and strong domestic energy system.
Unfortunately, too many energy infrastructure projects are delayed or do not have as vigorous a review as you would expect. And that is due to the fact that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is responsible for reviewing proposed projects cannot hire or retain enough qualified engineers for the simple reason that salaries in the private sector are too high for FERC to compete with given its current pay scale limits. This lack of engineers not only doesn't allow FERC to fully and robustly do its work, but it is a barrier to communities benefiting from the good paying jobs the construction of these projects provides.
If we want FERC to ensure that the projects that come up for review, now and in the future, are stringently but quickly reviewed, then we must make the pay for the engineers who review the applications more competitive. That is exactly what the Timely Review of Infrastructure Act would do, by allowing FERC to offer higher salaries for these high demand engineering positions, ensuring that critical infrastructure projects can get the review and approval they need to move forward.
The bill has bipartisan and bicameral support and FERC Chairman Chatterjee has stated his support for this legislation saying that it would enhance the Commission's ability to recruit and compensate the skilled staff needed to lessen the backlog of projects awaiting review and to review future projects in a more timely manner.
Our bill would not only help get rid of the backlog of projects currently awaiting review, but would allow FERC to have the proper staff in place as we build out a sustainable energy system. I view it as an important piece of getting our economy back on track and ensuring that America remains the leader in energy production and innovation that it has been.
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