To build back better, NJ must join the regional TCI for annual transportation infrastructure funds, say over 132 EOPA New Jersey elected officials July 1, 2021 By Ramona du Houx With New Jersey’s budget sorely lacking in transportation funding, the New Jersey Chapter of Elected Officials to Protect America urges Governor Murphy to sign the Transportation and Climate Initiative Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure […]
On June 29th the New Jersey Chapter of Elected Officials to Protect America hosted a press conference on the importance of TCI for communities hardest hit by COVID-19 and systematic environmental injustice. (see the full recording below)
New Jersey’s transportation sector makes up 42 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas pollution. A TRECH Project Research study of TCI, found that the initiative will cut carbon-dioxide emissions from transportation by as much as a quarter by 2032, thereby leading to much cleaner air and healthier communities. According to the Georgetown Climate Center, by joining the final TCI-MOU, the region can help reduce regional pollution by 25 percent, prevent more than 1,000 pollution-related deaths, and generate $10 billion in reduced health costs.
“New Jersey needs to join, or miss out on annual funding for needed investments in sustainable transportation infrastructure from TCI that will reduce pollution, and help bring equity to frontline communities,” said Dominic Frongillo Executive Director/Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America. “As we build back better, we have an opportunity to reduce our pollution, increase economic opportunity, and help drive our recovery by investing in clean, affordable, and efficient transportation. 132 New Jersey elected officials have signed our letter asking the governor to sign.”
Global emissions fell by 17 percent during pandemic lockdowns, with 43 percent of the decrease attributed to fewer gas polluting cars, buses and trucks on the road. TCI could help make those percentages become the norm, as it aims to decrease deadly emissions from the transportation sector.
The TCI regional collaboration of 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Once implemented, TCI will help advance the deployment of zero-emission cars and heavy-duty vehicles, which is a critical step to achieve a 100 percent clean energy future.
Since last year, New Jersey has required state environmental officials to consider the cumulative impacts of locating new power plants, manufacturing facilities, incinerators, or renewed air permits in communities already burdened with pollution from such plants. The law affects portions of 310 communities with populations of more than 4.4 million people. It applies to new projects as well as to facilities seeking renewal of air permits and other permits.
While Governor Murphy has been positioning the state to transition away from harmful fossil fuels to a 100 percent clean energy economy, there are still substantial investments in the transportation sector, and in frontline communities that need to be made.
The urgency for investments in communities of color, has increased in the wake of the COVID-19, as it exposed how they have been subjected to the worst carbon emissions. With the heightened exposure to pollution, people living in these communities became more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19.
It’s horrific that a 2019 Union of Concerned Scientists study found on average, communities of color in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic breathe 66 percent more air pollution from vehicles than white residents. That’s why it is so important that TCI enables states to choose where proceeds are allocated, thereby giving them the ability to tailor programs to specific needed clean transportation projects in local communities.
“Communities of color, and low-income communities suffer from higher rates of exposure to health-harming pollution from transportation and other sources, due to decades of systemic racism that has influenced where highways, ports, airports, bus and truck depots, and other polluting infrastructure is located,” said Atlantic City Councilmember Kaleem Shabazz. “I applaud the inclusion in the commitment by the TCI-P Signatory Jurisdictions in the MOU to invest no less than 50 percent of their annual program proceeds to assist communities overburdened by transportation pollution and underserved by the current transportation system. I stand ready to assist the process.”
Under the TCI-P MOU, each jurisdiction will designate an Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Board with diverse representation and community involvement to advise on developing criteria to identify overburdened and underserved communities, provide recommendations for investments, and assist with developing metrics to evaluate the success of those investments.
Projects in clean transit near affordable housing, safer routes to schools, and climate-resilient infrastructure could receive yearly proceeds from TCI.
“The flooding Hurricane Sandy wrought was devastating for Hoboken. TCI will help the Northeast be more prepared for climate impacts, by making them more resilient with better infrastructure,” said Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla, EOPA New Jersey Leadership Council. “For decades, pollution caused by transportation has impacted people who live in marginalized communities. I’m heartened to see that TCI will strengthen the health, prosperity, and resiliency of these communities by allocating 50 percent, or more, of the proceeds to projects there.”
The American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report showied New Jersey continues to have some of the most polluted air in the nation. Nine counties earned F’s for ground-level ozone pollution, also known as smog.
“New Jersey experienced an estimated 1,175 premature deaths in 2016 due to ozone and fine-particle pollution from vehicle emissions,” said Burlington County Commissioner Balvir Singh, EOPA New Jersey Leadership Council.“Air pollutants can’t be seen, but can kill. The rapid growth of warehouses has brought dangerous increases of air and noise pollution. We are also an agricultural community that relies on trucks to get produce and grain to ports. Electric trucks are silent, and clean. Ensuring our modes of transportation run on electricity will help everyone’s health, and business outcomes.”
The TCI consortium represents a population of 72 million people with a GDP larger than any country other than the United States and China.
“A Nature Conservancy poll found that 79 percent of voters support New Jersey joining TCI. People know a good thing when they see it,” said Richard Lawton, Executive Director of the New Jersey Sustainable Business Council.“Clean air, cleaner walkable, bike-able streets. It’s all good for business and our health. TCI should produce significant net savings for consumers estimated at around $4.85 billion. It is projected to increase regional GDP by $5.59 billion, while creating up to 25,000 jobs.”
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the program could invest up to $68 billion over the next ten years to address the climate crisis and other challenges facing transportation.
While President Biden, in his American Jobs Plan, has proposed a $174 billion for transportation infrastructure, even if it is passed as it is, states will continue to need annual transportation funding. RGGI has given New Jersey tremendous yearly benefits to implement plans—without relying on federal, state or local funding. TCI will do the same for transportation infrastructure.
How TCI works-
TCI is a cap on climate emissions. It generates revenue from the industries that are benefiting from the sale of fossil fuels. Government agencies participating in TCIset pollution limits,then require fuel companies to buy and sell emissions allowances from the state and each other, which could earn the state $300 million annually.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia are the current signatories of the MOU, all have submitted legislation in their respective state governments to finalize their membership.
Last November, a diverse collection of health, community, business, transportation, environmental and others came out strongly in favor of a TCI that helps erase the “deeply inequitable” aspects of the current transportation system in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region by signing a 200-group letter.