Advocating for an Ambitious and Equitable TCI Program in Connecticut: The Power of Coalitions
The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) project continues to move forward in Connecticut with strong support from the Lamont Administration and many others, attesting to the strength of the TCI Coalition that Acadia Center has been working to build over the past two years. An important milestone occurred on March 8, 2021, when the Connecticut General Assembly’s Environment Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill No. 884, a governor’s bill that would establish the TCI Program as state policy and require the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to adopt implementing regulations. The hearing was well attended by numerous and wide-ranging supporters who countered misinformation provided by the fossil fuel industry, spoke to the benefits the TCI Program would bring to the state, and called on state leaders to adopt additional measures to ensure equitable outcomes. Following the hearing, Governor Ned Lamont, legislative leaders and Middletown officials held a press conference on March 17, 2021, to express their support for the program and to highlight the state’s first electric school bus—the type of investment that could be replicated across the state with TCI funds.
Acadia Center has led and coordinated the advocacy efforts of the Connecticut TCI Coalition since 2019. The TCI Coalition now includes over 50 environmental, transportation, labor, justice and energy policy advocacy groups and businesses. This broad group of stakeholders from across the state has been coordinating virtually over the last year, extending outreach, amplifying campaign messages, and meeting regularly with state agencies to communicate our shared vision.
The success of the legislative hearing is the result of months of preparation on the part of Acadia Center and our coalition partners, sharing regional data and studies with the coalition, and refining a coordinated message. The TCI Coalition coordinated and conveyed a positive narrative that addressed the many benefits of the TCI program, from cleaner air and achieving climate targets to transportation improvements that will help businesses and communities thrive. Testimony from Acadia Center and our allies also called on Connecticut to go above and beyond the terms of the regional agreement by strengthening equity provisions and dedicating more TCI-P funds for investment in the state’s overburdened and underserved communities. Early modeling projects that TCI could save Connecticut over $360 million in public health costs annually by 2032; if implemented equitably, most of those health benefits will occur in the communities hardest hit by transportation pollution.
Staff from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) responded to misinformation about the TCI-P. As in other states, members of the fossil fuel industry exaggerated the program’s costs, ignored its benefits, and offered no alternative to address the climate, public health, and transportation challenges facing Connecticut. Katie Dykes, Commissioner of the Connecticut DEEP, and the other representatives of the Lamont administration gave strong testimony. Commissioner Dykes noted: “This is an environmental program that will cap greenhouse gas emissions and require the oil industry to pay for the damage it is causing to public health and the climate … I believe that Connecticut, being a leader on addressing climate and air pollution, is going to provide significant benefits to our communities,” Dykes told members of the committee. “I am very confident that if we do move this program forward, that we will see more states joining.”
Senator Christine Cohen, Co-Chair of the Environment Committee, expanded on her testimony by publishing a pro-TCI op-ed in the Connecticut Post. “Turning climate change around is the challenge of our time, and we owe it to future generations to do all we can to mitigate its impacts. We need bold action. I look forward to doing my part, along with my colleagues in the legislature, to ensure that Connecticut enacts legislation to implement TCI.”
Amy McLean, Acadia Center Connecticut Director, testified that “Connecticut has an opportunity to deliver the clean air and improved transportation options that the state’s residents and businesses deserve. Chronic under-investment—both in marginalized communities and in alternatives to personal vehicles—has resulted in congested roads, inadequate public transit, and neighborhoods lacking access to economic opportunities. At the same time, the imported fossil fuels used to power vehicles remain Connecticut’s greatest contributor to climate change and a major source of the air pollution that disproportionately harms minority residents. It is time to end that toxic combination by passing Senate Bill 884 to advance a modern, equitable, and sustainable transportation future.”
Acadia Center and its TCI Coalition partners look forward to continuing their partnerships to support this program that will bring enormous benefits to all Connecticut residents. The Environment Committee is expected to vote on SB 884 by March 31st, and the conversation will continue from there. For more information on the next steps and how you can support an equitable and ambitious TCI-P in Connecticut, contact Amy McLean, Senior Policy Advocate and Connecticut Director at firstname.lastname@example.org