Vermont climate advocates respond to Massachusetts and Connecticut withdrawal from the Transportation & Climate Initiative Program
by Jordan Giaconia, Public Policy Manager, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
Lauren Hierl, Executive Director, Vermont Conservation Voters
Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate & Energy Program Director, Vermont Public Interest Research Group
Johanna Miller, Energy & Climate Program Director, Vermont Natural Resources Council
Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, Director of Transportation Efficiency, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation
Last week, both Governors Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Ned Lamont of Connecticut announced their withdrawal from the Transportation & Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) -- a regional cap-and-invest program designed to reduce pollution from gasoline and diesel fuels while creating a new funding stream for clean and equitable transportation investments. In December 2020, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Washington, DC pledged participation. Lack of other states’ participation in the program was a key rationale for Massachusetts’ withdrawal in particular, leaving a significant gap in the region -- and those states’ -- ability to reduce transportation-related carbon pollution.
As transportation is Vermont’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, TCI-P has been the second most impactful recommendation of the Vermont Climate Council’s forthcoming Climate Action Plan and a promising means by which to tackle many of our state’s most pressing transportation challenges. The Governors’ recent announcements have put the future of the TCI-Program in question -- and have created significant uncertainty related to how the impending CAP outlines a clear path forward for required emissions reductions.
This extremely disappointing development ignores our state, regional, and national climate commitments. It also ignores broad public support across the region for TCI-P, as confirmed by multiple independent polls and the groundswell of support expressed during the TCI public comment period.
Both Governors Baker and Lamont also cited record high gas prices and the influx of incoming federal infrastructure dollars as key reasons for not pursuing participation in TCI-P. While short-term federal funds can act as a down payment to modernize our region’s outdated transportation system, TCI-P is a long-term sustainable source of funding for clean transportation solutions and could also provide matching funds to leverage additional federal infrastructure dollars in Vermont. Meanwhile, the price volatility of gasoline and diesel present a compelling reason for our states to move away from fossil-fueled transportation, not double down on it.
In Vermont, transportation accounts for 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions -- namely due to our state’s above average vehicle miles traveled and the fact that 94% of our transportation is powered by fossil fuels. Vermont’s continued reliance on gasoline and diesel has resulted in disproportionately higher transportation costs for rural and low-income Vermonters; channeled billions of dollars out of our state’s economy; and created major barriers for those looking to get an education or enter the workforce.
Without TCI-P or a commitment to other actions that achieve the same scale of pollution reduction and investment in alternative solutions, it’s doubtful that Vermont can fulfill its emissions reductions requirements codified by the Global Warming Solutions Act. That is why the CAP should recognize and the state should continue to pursue the potential revitalization of TCI-P, while also advancing other clear and commensurate regulatory, policy or programmatic pathways for emissions reductions in the transportation sector.
The influx of federal funding should not keep states from participating in TCI-P, but rather should raise expectations for urgent and decisive climate leadership by state leaders. Should Vermont not move forward with TCI-P, we call on Governor Scott and the legislature to double down on identifying both short and long-term investment strategies to support clean, equitable, healthy, and reliable transportation and to take bold steps to electrify Vermont’s transportation sector.
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
Vermont Conservation Voters
Vermont Energy Investment Corporation
Vermont Natural Resources Council
Vermont Public Interest Research Group
November 22, 2021 (Montpelier, VT)