If the initiative is ratified by Connecticut lawmakers, it is expected to generate significant revenue for the State Special Transportation Fund.
By Hugh McQuaid, CTNewsJunkie.com
Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island became the first states to sign an ambitious cap-and-invest agreement on Monday. The initiative aims to reduce vehicle pollution and is expected to lead to higher gas prices in the region.
The three states, plus the city of Washington, DC, were the first jurisdictions to approve the Transportation Climate Initiative. The program aims to cut CO2 emissions by 26% by 2032 by asking fuel suppliers to purchase permits for the pollution resulting from the fuel they sell. The agreement stipulates that the additional revenue will be invested in projects that promote a cleaner transportation system.
With fuel utilities passing the additional cost on to customers, proponents estimate that gas prices will rise 5 cents per gallon when the program goes online in 2023.
If the initiative is ratified by Connecticut lawmakers, it is expected to generate significant revenue for the state’s inadequate special transportation fund. Governor Ned Lamont’s administration estimates it will generate $ 89 million in the first year and $ 117 million annually through 2032.
“Connecticut has always prided ourselves on our climate leadership. If we can combine that with a stronger economy, fast transit systems and regional collaboration, we will all win,” Lamont said in a press release.
During a press conference on Monday announcing the Memorandum of Understanding between jurisdictions, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environment Kathleen Theoharide said the three states account for 73% of emissions in the New England region.
However, the three states represent a fraction of the 12 states that were involved in the TCI drafting process. Katie Dykes, Commissioner for the Department of Energy and the Environment, predicted the deal would become increasingly popular over time. She compared it to the regional greenhouse gas initiative, a similar cap-and-invest program that has capped emissions from power plants over the past decade.
“I am confident that other jurisdictions will join us, also because the past is a prologue here. We have seen this with other successful multi-state programs like RGGI. With a core group of states initiating the program and many others quickly joining in, ”she said.
In Connecticut, the agreement must be passed by lawmakers to take effect, according to Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, who chairs the lawmakers’ transportation committee. During a Monday interview, he praised the arrangement.
“That way, you can build the infrastructure that supports clean transportation. You want to be in a position where you can make it easy for people to step out of their heavy pollutant transit options. The transportation sector is the main contributor to the greenhouse gases, asthma and particles you find on roads. The way to get away from that and improve public health in general is to make it easier for people to get out of their cars, ”he said.
The plan will meet with opposition from the legislature. Republican leaders in both chambers issued statements against the agreement. Incoming House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-Branford, and Incoming Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, both criticized the timing.
“Merry Christmas Connecticut! On the Monday before Christmas, Governor Lamont gave middle-class families a lump of coal, ”said Kelly.
“Signing a plan that would make people pay more to drive shows a misunderstanding of how badly people are injured right now,” Candelora said. “Every member of our legislature should think long and hard about how this initiative will affect their constituents’ wallets.”
The Connecticut Energy Marketers Association also turned down the initiative, saying it would lead to “a dramatic increase in the price of gasoline”.
“There is no way the gasoline industry can pay federal excise tax, state excise tax, gross income tax on petroleum, or the newly proposed TCI gas tax. However, they hope that by introducing this tax with the fuel suppliers, consumers will not know or understand about it when it gets to them at the pump, ”said Chris Herb, President of CEMA, in a statement.
Lemar said the cost of selling gasoline and diesel fuel had already been “externalized” in many ways to fuel sellers. He said pollution has consequences that are paid for by the rest of society.
“Yeah, I get it. They think they are wrongly charged. Guess what? The product they sell has a dramatic public health impact in our state and we have to somehow pay them,” Lemar said.
The agreement also stipulates that 35% of the additional income will be invested in underserved communities. The state plans to set up an advisory group to identify underserved communities and make recommendations for investment.
Anthony Cherolis, Transportation Hartford coordinator for the Center for Latino Progress, said the agreement’s equity provisions sought to correct decades of transportation and housing policies that have low-income communities living in high-pollution areas.
“It seeks to repair this damage and reduce mobility problems for low-income communities that are congested and where a much higher percentage of their income is used for transportation and housing than higher-income households,” he said.
Republished with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com, all rights reserved.
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