Whether or not you are involved in the transportation industry, you may have heard about the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). Since the Environment, Energy, and Transportation agencies of several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states launched the initiative in 2010, TCI has generated quite a buzz amongst the environmentally conscious, as well as those interested in renovating our transportation systems.
In December 2020, the governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, along with the Mayor of Washington D.C. announced the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), a “multijurisdictional cap-and-invest program” with the goal of decreasing CO2 emissions. By January 1, 2032, ten years after the scheduled first reporting period in 2022, signatories hope to cut emissions by 26% in their jurisdictions. Other members of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, including Pennsylvania and other Mid-Atlantic states, assisted in the development of proposals and are invited to join the program.
Along with plans to limit emissions, 300 million is to be invested annually in clean transportation options. What exactly clean transportation entails will be up to the states themselves, but they have agreed unilaterally that at least 35% of investment will be directed towards underserved communities. The money will come from the fuel industry itself, as fuel suppliers will purchase allowances in auctions for the carbon emissions they produce. The allowances available would decline over time, leading to reduced emissions.
As it stands, Connecticut and Rhode Island are still in the legislative process for determining specifics of how to implement the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program, facing some challenges from groups in opposition to clean transportation measures along the way. It is not out of the question that they might still drop out of the program, if no deals can be made between those in favor and those against. Massachusetts’ Governor Charlie Baker, is waiting to go forward with his own plan until Connecticut and Rhode Island have fully committed.
Traditionally, multi-state solutions encounter significant roadblocks, both from state legislators wary of out-of-state influence, and from the legal intricacies which plague any wide-sweeping project. Nevertheless, climate action is overwhelmingly popular amongst citizens in Connecticut and Rhode Island, as well as Pennsylvania and other Mid-Atlantic states. According to one poll, 80% of Connecticut citizens support working with other states to improve transportation and to increase clean transportation options. When asked specifically about a “cap-and-invest” program as represented by the TCI-P, 67% of Connecticut citizens gave their support. Rhode Island’s support was lower, but still in a majority with 61%. Pennsylvania, by comparison, showed 64% support.
If the TCI-P does move forward, and produces the results advocates say it will, it is not unforeseeable that other states, including Pennsylvania may join. At the moment, Pennsylvania cannot join the TCI-P, because it is not a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, through which the cap-and-invest program will be implemented. Governor Wolfe is currently in the process of developing a rule-making process for managing emissions which would allow Pennsylvania to join RGGI, possibly by the next auction in 2022. This process will largely mirror the systems used by RGGI states already.
Participating states would see a significant boost to clean transportation as states try to fulfill their program goals. In addition, if more states join, the pool of money from carbon allowances expands, increasing potential funding opportunities across states.
In the coming weeks and months, our eyes will be on states within the Transportation and Climate Initiative as they debate their relation, and possible involvement in the TCI-P, particularly Connecticut and Rhode Island. In the meantime, citizens are able to voice their opinions on the program directly to the TCI through the TCI-P Public Input Portal, as well as read the opinions of citizens from across all of the member states.
Whatever happens with the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program, it represents a major shift in the way we discuss environmentally sustainable transportation on a national level, not as a problem relating to one region, but as a multijurisdictional concern that requires multijurisdictional action. As we continue to question our reliance on gas and diesel, and their harmful effects on our environment, other programs modelled after the TCI-P will surely appear. And perhaps the TCI-P itself will get off the ground, at which point, it seems likely it will expand beyond its founding members to include other states in the region.