HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont and the leaders of two other northeastern states and the District of Columbia signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday to pursue substantial reductions in motor vehicle pollution and invest $300 million per year in modernizing transportation in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.
Governors Lamont, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, and Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia represent the first states of a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia to join the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program.
The program, according to a release from Lamont’s office, will “guarantee Connecticut at least a 26 percent reduction in carbon emissions from transportation from 2022 to 2032, and is anticipated to generate annual revenue of up to $89 million in 2023, increasing to as much as $117 million in 2032.”
The plan will require gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers to purchase emissions allowances for the pollution resulting from the fuels they sell in participating states. Since each year the total number of allowances is expected to decline, the amount of transportation pollution will also decrease.
According to a statement released by the Office of the Governor, “Connecticut will reinvest the additional revenue in “equitable and cleaner” transportation options, creating jobs in transit, construction and green energy and boosting the development of infrastructure for decades to come.
Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Connecticut Energy and Environmental Protection, said the agreement would cap carbon pollution from transportation in Connecticut for the first time, and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent over the next decade.
Carol Platt Liebau, president of the Yankee Institute, a conservative-leaning policy nonprofit based in Connecticut, called the initiative a regressive tax and said it would result in $388.6 million per year in increased gasoline costs across the state.
“This new tax is regressive, opaque, and offensive to hardworking Connecticut residents and small business owners who deserve better from a state government that is supposed to care about them and represent their interests – not the interests of an activist group bent on making it too expensive for the average family to drive to work,” she said.
Our Transportation Future, a coalition of 78 local, regional, and national organizations that focuses on modernizing transportation across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region, issued a statement in favor of the program and urging further action.
“The bold and ambitious Transportation & Climate Initiative program is an important step in cutting greenhouse gas pollution from the transportation sector. Still, more will need to be done to reduce pollution at the levels needed to stem the effects of climate change and address historic and current pollution burdens. We look forward to working with states to make the program as strong as possible, especially as it relates to cutting local emissions and improving access to quality transportation options in overburdened and underserved communities.”
Connecticut will create a diverse “equity advisory body” to assist in developing criteria to “identify overburdened and underserved communities, provide recommendations for investments, and assist with developing metrics to evaluate the success of those investments.”
The memo of understanding provides an allotment of “no less than 35 percent of the annual proceeds to assist communities overburdened by transportation pollution and associated negative health impacts and underserved by the current transportation system.”
Raimondo said the program will provide $20 million annually “for public transit, safe streets for bikers and pedestrians, and other green projects,” as well as “provide much-needed relief for the urban communities who suffer lifelong health problems as a result of dirty air.”
Baker said that partnering with other northeastern states will create “a more significant impact on climate change while creating jobs and growing the economy as a result.
However, Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said the plan will cost state residents more to drive during a critical time of financial stress and would not solve long-term infrastructure issues.
“This news couldn’t come at a worse time for Connecticut residents and employers who will undoubtedly find themselves dealing with the devastating financial impacts of this pandemic for the foreseeable future,” said Candelora. “Signing on to a plan that would have people pay more to drive shows a lack of understanding about just how much people are hurting right now.
Every member of our legislature should think long and hard about how this initiative will impact the wallets of their constituents, particularly since there’s no concrete connection to addressing the critical issue they see and feel on a daily basis—fixing our state’s roads and bridges.”
Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont are currently negotiating participation in the program.
Each of the participating states will decide independently how to invest program proceeds. Investments could include:
- improving existing public transit systems
- developing new bus routes in suburban and rural communities
- developing bus rapid transit
- electrifying buses, rail, and state fleets
- developing highway preservation to reduce congestion; expanding safe
bike lanes, bike paths, walking trails, and sidewalks
- expanding bike-share programs
- improving high speed wireless internet in rural and low-income areas
- creating rebates for electric and low-emission vehicles
- developing charging infrastructure
- developing interstate electric vehicle charging corridors
- creating incentives for continued telecommuting.