Over 120 elected officials from 3 states sign letter to encourage full participation in the Transportation Climate Initiative for annual reliable infrastructure funds By Ramona du Houx October 14, 2021 The world faces multiple interconnected existential crises that threaten our shared humanity, and our planet because of human caused climate change. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report […]
Over 120 elected officials from 3 states sign letter to encourage full participation in the Transportation Climate Initiative for annual reliable infrastructure funds
By Ramona du Houx
October 14, 2021
The world faces multiple interconnected existential crises that threaten our shared humanity, and our planet because of human caused climate change. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report clearly showed world governments have to take substantial action immediately. The science is clear: we must cut the carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels in half by 2030 Dirty fossil fuel power plants account fora third of our carbon footprint. They must completely stop adding more carbon to the atmosphere by 2050 — in order to keep the climate crisis from becoming a catastrophe where lives will be lost on a large scale.
In America, the transportation sector remains the highest source of emissions. It produces 43 percent of greenhouse gas pollution in Massachusetts, 38 percent in Connecticut, and 36 percent in Rhode Island. The Transportation and Climate Initiative(TCI) addresses this major issue by curbing gas emissions — making the companies that produce gas finally pay for their 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.
On October 13th Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA), a consortium of elected officials dedicated to the environment and mitigating the climate crisis, hosted a zoom press conference. The media asked questions to a panel of five lawmakers from Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut about the potential of having the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) for their state and the region. These elected officials enthusiastically agreed that TCI is an imperative way to help meet the challenges of the climate crisis, while bringing needed transportation infrastructure investments to their respective states.
“We must take urgent action to mitigate the climate crisis by investing in a clean, affordable, and efficient transportation sector that will reduce our pollution, increase economic opportunity, and create needed good paying jobs. TCI is key for the region to achieve these goals,” said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director/Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America. “With over 120 signatures the Elected Officials to Protect America’s regional letter for Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts urges their respective governors and legislatures to implement TCI.”
TCI is a regional cap and invest program that will bring up to $3 billion in revenue to build clean infrastructure projects, thereby improving the region’s quality of life. The TCI consortium of 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia represent a population of 72 million people with a GDP larger than any country other than the United States and China. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, TCI could invest up to $68 billion over the next ten years to address the climate crisis and other challenges facing transportation.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has been bringing in funding from a cap and invest system for a consortium of Atlantic states since 2009. TCI will garner annual funding for its consortium of states with a similar type of program.
“RGGI has generated more than $4 billion that has been invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy. It was a bipartisan bill that passed with overwhelming support,” said William Haskell, Connecticut State Senator. “TCI will be a substantial new annual source for needed clean transportation projects. Let’s put more electric vehicles on the road, improve our trains, make all our busses electric and transform public transportation so that no one needs to breathe in dirty gas emissions.”
Sen. Haskell encouraged people to call their state representatives and state senators to voice one’s support for TCI. He said local state lawmakers are more accessible than elected officials in Congress. Messages left at state offices will reach their representatives, and in many cases one might talk with their local representative personally. He said that calls do influence politicians on the state level and would make it easier for TCI to pass through the legislative process.
“A handful of phone calls can make all the difference,” he said. “If a dozen constituents pick up the phone and reach us on our cell phones by the way, and say they’d like us to focus on environmental justice, on transportation, improved trains and rail, and buses, then all of a sudden we are going to see the tide turn in the legislatures.”
“Call your state lawmaker to support the Transportation Climate Initiative.”
– advice from Sen. Haskell (CT) and Sen. Kallman(RI)
Investments made possible by TCI will better prepare the Northeast for worsening climate crisis impacts by making states more resilient with better infrastructure. Every state has experienced extreme weather due to human induced climate change. Communities within the potential final participants in the regional TCI consortium are at risk from flooding worsening. A 2017 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists said 170 coastal communities will face chronic flooding at least 26 times a year in the next two decades, twice as many at-risk locations as today.
“There is more risk that comes every year with extreme flooding and hurricanes becoming more common every year. We have to mitigate the crisis, cut emissions and adapt, all at once. The Transportation Climate Initiative is a huge step in that direction,” said Meghan Kallman, PhD, Rhode Island State Senator. “The program will improve transportation, with electric vehicles and charging stations, energize our clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions. Programs like this will make our communities safer and healthier for everyone.”
TCI should produce significant net savings for consumers estimated at around $4.85 billion.
TCI states, and the District of Columbia, have mandated that at least 80 percent to 100 percent carbon emission reductions by 2050. This has made the Northeast emerge as a national leader in transitioning away from harmful fossil fuels to a fully clean energy economy.
However, electric vehicles (EVs) are still cost prohibitive for too many Americans. President Biden wishes to change this. TCI works in tandem with President Biden’s transportation infrastructure plans. His policies would extend and expand tax credits for businesses and consumers to increase manufacturing and create more jobs. While provisions on transportation will be voted on in his bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the budget reconciliation process, states will continue to need sustainable clean transportation annual funding and their own projects.
The federal funding will fall short of the needs for local communities because of how the funding will be allocated.
“TCI is a game changer for cities and towns when it comes to meeting climate goals,” said Emily Norton, Newton Massachusetts City Councilor. “From EV charging to public transit to cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, TCI will enable us to make bold investments in clean mobility choices for our residents and businesses. Cleaner air and water, healthier people, and tackling climate change, truly a win-win-win.”
TCI enables states to choose where proceeds are allocated, thereby giving us the ability to tailor programs to specific needed clean transportation projects. Projects in clean transit near affordable housing, safer routes to schools, and climate-resilient infrastructure, amongst others, could receive yearly proceeds from TCI.
Importantly, TCI will help communities of color, suffering 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 and industrial sites are located.
“Pollution from I-95 disproportionately affects our urban core communities here in Norwalk and is just one important aspect of the TCI for our city. It’s time we brought environmental justice to our communities that have suffered from decades of neglect and racism. We all have a fundamental right to breathe clean air,” said Dominique Johnson, Norwalk, Connecticut Councilmember.
TCI states must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to become official members and then have their respective legislatures ratify it in law. On December 21, 2020, the governors of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, along with the mayor of the District of Columbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed to work to implement the provisions of the TCI-Program (TCI-P) Signatory Jurisdictions in their respective jurisdictions. The TCI-P invests no less than 35 percent of their annual program proceeds to assist communities overburdened by transportation pollution and underserved by the current transportation system.
“It’s unconscionable 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,” said Roland Lemar, Connecticut State Representative. “In Connecticut our legislature has ensured that no less than 50 percent of annual proceeds from TCI will go to help communities that have suffered the most from greenhouse gas emissions and need a clean transportation system that serves them. We encourage other states to agree to this life saving measure.”
According to another Harvard study, if all participating jurisdictions implement the program, the region can reduce transportation emissions by 25 percent, prevent more than 1,360 pollution-related deaths, and generate up to $13.5 billion in savings from avoided health costs by 2032.
Rhode Island State Senator Alana DiMario and Representative Terri Cortvriend are sponsors of the bill in their legislature. In a joint statement they said:
“As sponsors of the TEAM Community Act, we are pleased that there is broad support for TCI-P across state government. We made great progress in this past legislative session with the Senate passing the bill in June. Governor McKee supports efforts under TCI to address climate change and improve public health, and is actively engaged in conversations with Governors Lamont and Baker on this initiative. The Department of Environmental Management continues to engage legislators, environmental and equity advocates, and other stakeholders to discuss the benefits of TCI and why putting the brakes on air pollution and accelerating innovation in cleaner transit and healthier communities is so important to Rhode Island. We are very hopeful that both the House and Senate will hear the bills early in the 2022 session and bring the bills to the floor for passage so that it can be presented to the governor for signature.”
In November of 2020, 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.
Over 200 elected officials from New York and New Jersey have already signed respective EOPA letters to urge their governors to sign MOU for official participation in TCI.
EOPA will keep their regional letter open so that additional elected officials from MA, CT and RI who wish to call for immediate action to mitigate the climate crisis can easily add their support for TCI.