Hartford Activists and Health Experts Raise Concerns Over Air Pollution

HARTFORD, CT  – During a press conference in front of the Community Health Services at 1pm on Sunday, June 13th in Hartford on Albany Avenue, advocates called upon the Connecticut General Assembly to pass the Transportation and Climate Initiative during the Special Legislative Session. TCI will lower air pollution and reduce health risks, including asthma rates, among Connecticut residents, especially those in urban centers.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimate that TCI would avoid over 300 deaths per year in the North East, and prevent thousands of children from having asthma-related health illnesses. TCI would lower healthcare expenses as air pollution decreases. TCI is a unique opportunity to improve the public health of Connecticut residents, especially in communities overburdened by air pollution.

TCI will generate about $1 billion in revenue between 2023 and 2032 in Connecticut.  A minimum of 50% will be invested in communities that are overburdened by air pollution (including many environmental justice and urban communities located close to transportation corridors and power plants), or underserved by the transportation system.   An Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Board will be formed, comprised of residents of these communities to determine the programs best suited for their needs.

Dr. Mark Mitchell, Associate Professor, George Mason University, former Director of Health for the City of Hartford:

“Air pollution sends many Hartford children to the emergency room — unable to breathe. We must adopt policies that address health disparities and tackle asthma among children. We must pass TCI to invest in clean transportation solutions such as reliable public transit, electric vehicle infrastructure, cleaner school buses, walkable and bikeable communities, and more — in order to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. As a public health physician, I believe that TCI is the best opportunity we have ever had to reduce our very high asthma, cancer, and learning disability rates and health disparities in Connecticut.”

Brenda Watson, Executive Director, Operation Fuel:

“Just like the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, TCI has been focused on achieving environmental justice. The beauty of this legislation is that it will address climate change, health and equity at the same time.  It dedicates 50% of the funding to overburdened communities as well as communities underserved by the transportation system. It establishes an Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Board, composed of representatives of vulnerable communities, to recommend expenditures that would have the most benefit to these communities in reducing transportation related air pollution and providing jobs. This will improve both outdoor and indoor air pollution.”

Amy McLean, Connecticut Director & Senior Policy Advocate, Acadia Center:

“Not passing SB 884 means that Connecticut residents will continue to suffer the health effects caused carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Without this legislation Connecticut has no comprehensive tools to fight against the problem.  Whiffing on this critical climate and carbon pollution reduction legislation is a short sighted and a terrible decision. The 2021 special session is the right time to pass SB 884. The time is now….. not next year or the year after….. now.”  Acadia Center is a clean energy nonprofit that has been working on TCI across the region for over 6 years.

Charles Rothenberger, Save the Sound Climate and Energy Attorney:

“The Transportation and Climate Initiative is the most significant piece of climate legislation before the CT General Assembly in a decade and it’s strongly supported by doctors, businesses, and climate and social justice advocates. By using the health of our communities and the future of our environment as a bargaining chip, elected officials are abdicating their responsibility to protect public health, enhance the quality of life in our most challenged   communities, and meet   our state’s climate commitments. The legislature can still lead on these issues by getting TCI over the finish line this session. Let’s call a vote and pass this critical climate and public health legislation legislation…”

Lori Brown, Executive Director, CT League of Conservation Voters:

“Legislators and the Governor need to fight harder — together — for equitable solutions to climate change.  TCI has vocal support from all corners of our state because of the immense benefits and targeted investments it will bring to communities most impacted by air pollution.  We, the public, should not accept anything less from our elected leaders.”

Robert Goodrich, co-founder of R.A.C.C.E:

“In this moment, senate leadership and the governor must either change course or be put on notice that their decisions to negotiate in bad faith on responsible tax increases on corporations and wealthy individuals while using #TCI-P as a poker chip in high stakes game of all or nothing has endangered our communities by sacrificing tools for advancing racial justice, cleaner air, and transportation equity at the alter of the elite politicians in our state.”

Thomas Regan-Lefebvre, coordinator at Transport Hartford at the Center for Latino Progress:

“Members of the Legislative Assembly must listen to doctors and nurses’ expertises. TCI will improve air quality and will address transportation inequities that are hurting so many in our state. We can no longer delay tackling this health emergency: the Legislature/ Assembly must pass TCI during the special legislative session.”

Chris Phelps, Environment Connecticut State Director:

“If they are serious about fighting climate change, Connecticut’s legislators cannot leave Hartford this year without voting to cap and reduce carbon pollution from transportation”

“SB 884, implementing the Transportation Climate Initiative agreement is must-pass legislation for any politician in Hartford who is serious about fighting climate change. We cannot afford to wait to act on climate.”


Media Contacts:

Thomas Regan-Lefebvre, Transport Hartford
thomas_lefebvre@ctprf.org
(508) 863-9495

Amy McLean
amclean@acadiacenter.org
(860) 478-9125

 

 

 

 

 

How environmental bills fared during Connecticut’s 2021 legislative session

The recently completed legislative session notched a number of wins — but also some losses — for environmentalists. Advocates hailed improvements to Connecticut’s “bottle bill” but expressed disappointment with lawmakers’ failure to sign on to a multistate program aimed at reducing vehicle emissions.

The Transportation and Climate Initiative was one of Gov. Ned Lamont’s signature environmental policies going into this legislative session.

The multistate program was designed to place a declining cap on emissions from gas and on-road diesel fuel, while requiring wholesalers to purchase “allowances” to cover those emissions. Money raised would be reinvested into Connecticut communities and transportation projects.

Advocates said TCI would reduce on-road carbon dioxide emissions by about one-quarter while raising $1 billion by 2032.

But opponents framed the idea as a “gas tax,” clinging to language from TCI supporters that said the measure would likely raise gas prices by at least 5 cents per gallon beginning in 2023.

“It is not a tax. It is a cap on climate emissions. And that is the whole goal of this program,” said Lori Brown, executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, which advocated for TCI’s passage. “It generates revenue from the industries that are benefiting from the sale of fossil fuels.”

“Fifty percent of that would be reinvested into communities that were either overburdened by pollution,” Brown said, “or to communities that are the most underserved by our current transportation system.”

But the “tax” idea seemed to stick. And the bill was ultimately nixed in the late days of the session from Lamont’s proposed budget.

“Not passing TCI in the regular session was a big mistake,” said Amy McLean, state director for the Acadia Center, which advocated for TCI. “That is the priority that we need to address in the special session.”

Read the full article in the CT Mirror here

Acadia Center Releases 2020 Annual Report

Today, Acadia Center released its 2020 Annual Report – “Pathways to Possibilities” – an interactive microsite that highlights the organization’s 2020 stories of impact and progress and hopes for its future. As with so many people and organizations, 2020 was a year of unexpected changes and major shifts in perspective. However, the Annual Report’s opening quote from writer and environmental activist Rebecca Solnit states, “Inside the word ‘emergency’ is ‘emerge;’ from an emergency, new things come forth.” This has certainly been true for Acadia Center. We built on the foundation of our vision of expanding a clean energy future for all and intensified our resolve and dedication to justice. Our commitment to seizing new opportunities with partners and charting the course toward sustainable change has never been stronger.

None of this would be possible without generous individuals and foundations who enthusiastically support Acadia Center’s work. With leadership from our Board of Directors, and our dedicated and passionate staff, we can accelerate the change communities urgently need. Thank you for your unwavering encouragement and partnership.

Read the full report HERE

Environmental groups, governor ‘not giving up’ on TCI in Connecticut as pressure mounts on Massachusetts to drop deal

Pressure is mounting in Massachusetts to drop a controversial plan to cut vehicle emissions in the Northeast as Connecticut’s governor and environmental groups say they’re “not giving up” yet.

“Connecticut is not pulling out of (the Transportation Climate Initiative),” said Amy McLean, state director and senior policy advocate at the Acadia Center, which supports the deal. “We are working every angle and not giving up passing TCI this session in Connecticut.”

She said recent statements by the legislative leaders are “misleading in regards to the status of Connecticut’s involvement in TCI” and noted they only have authority to approve the deal, not pull the state out entirely.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, too, “remains committed to the program and to action on the climate crisis,” according to a spokesman.

Read the full article in the Boston Herald here

Advocates say Maine needs to expand time-of-use rates to hit climate goals

Maine clean energy advocates say it’s time to revisit and ramp up time-of-use rates, and the state’s major utilities and several other stakeholders agree.

Meeting the state’s climate goals could add significant load to the state’s grid as drivers switch to electric cars and buildings abandon fossil fuels for heating.

Unless some customers can be persuaded to put off drying clothes, running dishwashers or charging vehicles until nighttime, that new demand could force expensive upgrades to the system and make it harder to eliminate fossil fuels.

That’s where time-of-use rates come into play. Unlike traditional flat rates, time-of-use rates charge customers different prices at different times of the day. Often this means customers pay a relatively expensive rate during the busiest hours of the day and less expensive rates during off-peak hours.

State legislation introduced this year, as well as a recent report on the future of Maine’s electric grid, called on state regulators to investigate how to roll out time-of-use rates on a broader scale than what’s currently offered.

“We’ve been, in Maine, interested in convening a conversation around grid modernization for a while,” said Rob Wood, director of government relations and climate policy for the Maine chapter of the Nature Conservancy, which convened a stakeholder group last September to build on the recommendations of an energy-focused working group within the Maine Climate Council.

The 35-member group, which the Nature Conservancy convened in partnership with the Great Plains Institute, included renewable energy developers, clean energy and consumer advocates, state government officials and representatives from both of Maine’s investor-owned utilities. Its final report, issued in April, included nine broad recommendations to advance the state’s grid modernization efforts. (The report received funding from the Barr Foundation, which also provides funding to the Energy News Network.)

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Jeff Marks, the Maine director at Acadia Center and a stakeholder group member, said a time-of-use rate should include an opt-out option. On the one hand, this option adds a layer of protection for customers who often have limited means and schedules that don’t allow flexibility to change their electricity use. At the same time, automatically enrolling all customers and allowing them to opt out if they choose almost certainly guarantees higher uptake than trying to get customers to sign up on their own.

Read the full article from Energy News Network here.

Acadia Center President Daniel Sosland on Great.com

In this episode of Swedish podcast Great.com, an educational podcast featuring leaders making a positive difference in the world, Acadia Center’s President Daniel Sosland champions the advancement of clean energy solutions for a liveable climate and equitable economy. Give it a listen!

Is it a plan to fight climate change or is it a gas tax? The TCI is facing fierce pushback

In the annals of Connecticut’s legislative brawls, this one has the makings of tolls 2.0.

The new transportation effort that is grazing the guardrails is the Transportation and Climate Initiative, TCI. It’s a climate change-combatting concept that seeks to replicate through the motor vehicle sector what the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) accomplished through the electric power sector — cutting greenhouse gases and other emissions while raising money to cycle funds back into related climate-change programs. In the case of TCI, it could also cycle funds into the state’s dwindling transportation fund.

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Only the broad outlines of TCI exist at this point. Enabling legislation needed to start the process of designing an actual plan, specific for Connecticut, has been hit with pushback rarely seen in Connecticut on matters related to climate change. Normally bi-partisan affairs, this measure made it through the environment committee on a party-line vote. And full-bore PR campaigns by supporters and opponents can make it tough to tell if the two sides are even talking about the same bill.

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In the meantime, a large coalition of supporting groups including environmental and social justice advocates such as Transport Hartford/Center for Latino Progress has been quietly fanning out around the state over the last couple of years, educating those likely to feel most of the impacts and picking up support in some unlikely places. The group has its own social equity coalition and a host of major corporations working through Ceres, which works with investors on multiple sustainability issues.

“The way the opposition wins is by scare tactics,” said Amy McLean, Acadia Center’s Connecticut director. “The way we win is putting together constituencies.”

Read the full article in the CT Mirror here

Connecticut Business Leaders: “TCI is Good for Business”

Amy McLean, Acadia Center’s Connecticut Director, helped organize a press conference today focused on the economic benefits of clean transportation policy. The featured speakers, including local business leaders and state legislators, highlighted the opportunity to create jobs and support Connecticut’s economy through participation in the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P). Acadia Center has been working with these businesses, other partners in Connecticut, and the regional Our Transportation Future Coalition to advance an equitable and ambitious TCI-P in Connecticut.
To read the full press release on the Our Transportation Future (OTF) website, click here.

Acadia Center Applauds Rhode Island Legislators for Introducing Transportation Emissions and Mobile (TEAM) Community Act

PROVIDENCE—Last week, Rhode Island legislators introduced S0872 and H6310, the Transportation Emissions and Mobile (TEAM) Community Act, to implement the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) in Rhode Island. TCI-P  is a bipartisan agreement between neighboring states Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, as well as the District of Columbia to cut transportation pollution by 26% between 2022-2032. The program is expected to generate approximately $250 million over 10 years for Rhode Island to invest in equitable, less polluting transportation options—investments that will create local jobs and deliver public health benefits of approximately $100 million annually.

“Acadia Center thanks Representative Terri Cortvriend, Senator Alana DiMario, and their colleagues in the General Assembly for introducing the TEAM Community Act to implement the TCI Program. Rhode Island has been at the forefront of the regional, bipartisan negotiations to develop the TCI Program for years and this legislation enshrines important commitments to improve public health, combat the Climate Crisis, center environmental justice voices in transportation decisions, and provide better mobility options for all,” said Hank Webster, Acadia Center’s Rhode Island Director. “This bill is a logical next step to implement the Act on Climate bill signed into law last month, which mandates greenhouse gas emission reductions over the next 30 years.”

Transportation is Rhode Island’s largest source of air pollution—representing nearly 40% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Harmful tailpipe pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter disproportionately impact the health of densely populated neighborhoods where major roadways, highways, and ports have been located. In Rhode Island, as in other states, the communities overburdened by air pollution are predominately Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color which have historically lacked representation and decision-making power in transportation planning. The TEAM Community Act and TCI-P will take an important first step to address these systemic injustices by establishing an Equity Advisory Board composed of the state’s Health Equity Zones and members of overburdened and underserved communities. The TEAM Community Act also commits a minimum of 35% of TCI-P proceeds for targeted investments that reduce pollution in local communities most impacted by transportation pollution.

“These commitments represent significant progress, but RI has much more work to do to develop stakeholder processes and policy solutions that meet the needs of the community,” said Jordan Stutt, Acadia Center’s Carbon Programs Director. “While an equitably-designed TCI program should benefit overburdened and underserved communities, TCI-P is just one tool in the toolbox; other actions will still be necessary to deliver transportation justice. We know through polling and past ballot initiatives that Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support investments in clean transportation and we need to make sure all communities enjoy the benefits of better, healthier mobility options.”

Acadia Center also announced a new educational website as a free resource to the public to demonstrate the TCI-P opportunity for Rhode Island. The website, www.TCI4RI.com is a “one stop shop” of links to studies and media entries that explain the program’s design and showcase the many benefits of the TCI-P regional cap-and-invest program. It will be updated regularly with the latest information about TCI-P and feature transportation stories from around the Ocean State.

“It’s important to recognize the tremendous potential for TCI-P to really transform Rhode Island’s transportation systems for the better,” said Webster. “Acadia Center developed this website as one tool to help Rhode Islanders envision a future where people have better transportation options—healthier, convenient, more efficient, and above all, less polluting. We’re thankful for the efforts of our many partners to help develop this clearinghouse of information.”

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Acadia Center is a regionally focused non-profit organization headquartered in Rockport, Maine, working to advance a clean energy future that benefits all.


Media Contacts

Rhode Island:
Hank Webster, Rhode Island Director & Staff Attorney
hwebster@acadiacenter.org, 401-239-8500

Regional:
Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director
jstutt@acadiacenter.org, 845-702-5217

Rep. Cotvriend leads effort to implement Transportation and Climate Initiative Program

Portsmouth Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Sen. Alana M. DiMario are introducing legislation to implement the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) in Rhode Island.

In December, former Gov. Gina Raimondo, along with the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut and the mayor of Washington, D.C., signed a memorandum of understanding to join the bipartisan Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), which will cut greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicles in the region by an estimated 26% from 2022 to 2032, generate a total of more than $3 billion dollars over 10 years for the participating jurisdictions to invest in equitable, less polluting transportation options and to help energize economic recovery.

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The bill has drawn support from a host of community and environmental groups, including Acadia Center, Green Energy Consumers Alliance, Clean Water Action, Climate Action Rhode Island, Environment Council of Rhode Island and the Coalition for a Better Business Environment.

“Acadia Center applauds Rep. Cortvriend and Sen. DiMario for their leadership on the TEAM Community Act. This legislation is a critical first step to ‘Build Back Better’ in our transportation network and prepare for the future with long-term, sustainable funding of over $20 million per year. Automakers have announced a major shift towards electric vehicles; people are walking and bicycling at record levels; and, public transportation helps reduce traffic congestion and commuting costs for workers. Making strategic investments in clean mobility options will strengthen our economy, create good jobs, and deliver over $100 million in annual health benefits from cleaner air and healthier communities,” said Hank Webster, Rhode Island Director of Acadia Center, in a statement.

Read the full article in The Newport Daily News here