Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island must not squander their opportunity to deliver the clean air and improved transportation options that residents and businesses deserve. Chronic underinvestment—both in marginalized communities and in alternatives to personal vehicles—has resulted in congested roads, inadequate public transit, and isolated communities. At the same time, the imported fossil fuels used to power vehicles remain the region’s most significant contributor to climate change and a major source of locally harmful air pollution.
Bold action is needed to address these growing challenges. One piece of the solution is the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), a multi-state effort to reduce tailpipe pollution while funding investment in clean transportation projects. In southern New England, the governors of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have been working together to implement this program to deliver cleaner air and better transportation options. States must act with urgency and a commitment to equity in advancing this crucial program.
TCI-P also has the support of the region’s residents. Recent polling of Republican, Independent and Democratic voters from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island found that 70% of the region’s residents support participation in TCI-P. That level of popular support combined with program’s substantial benefits begs the question: what’s holding up the process? In short, misinformation from Koch-funded networks and the fossil fuel industry have caused temporary delays, but state legislators in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island still have an opportunity to act.
Tackling Shared Challenges in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island
Due to the regional nature of transportation pollution—both vehicle tailpipes and the pollution they emit cross state lines—regional collaboration to confront this challenge is critical. A regional solution is also well suited to address the similar issues that Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are facing. In all three states, TCI-P will improve poor air quality, provide much-needed funds for clean transportation investment, and help the states meet their climate requirements.
Transportation pollution causes poor air quality and results in substantial healthcare costs for individuals and the broader public health system. While some of the region’s air pollution comes from upwind states, much it comes from cars, trucks and buses that operate locally, causing significant harm to communities near highways, cities, and ports. Despite the fact that Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are home to just 3.5% of the country’s population, five of the top 20 Asthma Capitals in the country are located here: New Haven, CT (#5), Worcester, MA (#11), Springfield, MA (#12), Hartford, CT (#17), and Boston, MA (#18) have some of the highest rates of asthma prevalence, emergency department visits due to asthma, and asthma-related fatalities. Making matters worse, that pollution disproportionately harms communities of color: Asian American, African American and Latino residents in Massachusetts are exposed to 36%, 34%, and 28% more particulate matter from transportation, respectively, than white residents.
Fixing the costly and inequitable burdens of transportation pollution will require multiple strategies, but TCI-P will help. Analysis of TCI-P from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that the program will result in over $1 billion in annual health benefits across the three states by 2032 (annual health benefits by state: Massachusetts, $710 million; Connecticut, $360 million; and RI, $100 million). By delivering cleaner air and making walking and biking safer and more accessible, TCI-P will help the region’s residents thrive.
Clean Transportation Investment
Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have all developed robust plans for clean transportation investment. All three plans, designed with significant stakeholder input, are organized around the need to meet climate targets, improve mobility options for all residents, and invest in a resilient and modern transportation system. The specific ideas proposed in these plans include affordable, reliable, electrified public transit, better walking and biking infrastructure, expanded broadband internet, equitable EV incentive programs, and more. In addition to improving air quality and mobility choices, these investments would create much-needed jobs in growing sectors of the economy.
TCI-P would provide an important new source of funding for these investments while supporting the states’ efforts to secure matching federal funds. Over the program’s first 10 years, the three states are projected to receive over $3 billion in proceeds for clean transportation investment (projected proceeds by state: Massachusetts, $1.8 billion; Connecticut, $1 billion; and RI, $249 million). As described by the authors of Rhode Island’s Clean Transportation and Mobility Innovation Report, “this new funding is integral to the full realization of the recommendations made by the Mobility Innovation Working Group”.
Meeting Climate Commitments
Vehicle tailpipes are the largest source of climate pollution in the region by a wide margin. In Connecticut, the transportation sector accounts for more climate pollution than the electricity and residential sectors combined. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island all have binding, economy-wide climate targets in place, but states will fail to achieve those targets without bold action to reduce pollution from the transportation sector. As stated by Commissioner Dykes of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, “we know that we will not be able to meet the legislatively mandated targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030, unless we have a tool that’s as impactful as [TCI-P].”
TCI-P will help participating states achieve their climate commitments by establishing an ambitious yet achievable glide path for transportation decarbonization and by funding investments in clean transportation. The longer we delay action to reduce transportation pollution, the more dramatic—and expensive—the necessary measures will be.
Opposition from Koch-Funded Networks and the Fossil Fuel Industry
Despite broad support for TCI-P, the program does have opposition. In some cases, that opposition stems from genuine concerns around how TCI-P will ensure equitable outcomes for environmental justice communities and other overburdened and underserved populations. Acadia Center has expressed similar concerns and is currently working to advance TCI-P provisions and other policies to secure cleaner air, better transportation options, and more oversight for the communities marginalized by our transportation system.
The loudest opposition to TCI-P, however, comes from two small but vocal camps: organizations with close ties to the Koch network’s dark money, and those who profit more directly from our continued reliance on gasoline and diesel fuels.
The Yankee Institute in Connecticut and the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity are members of the State Policy Network (SPN), a network of conservative think tanks backed by Koch-funded foundations working to “oppose climate change regulations, lower wages, cut taxes and business regulations, tighten voter restrictions, privatize education, and hide the identities of political donors.” The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, an organization notoriously adverse to donor transparency, works closely with these SPN groups to oppose clean energy and climate policies. Joining these groups is the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, a trade association representing some of the region’s gas stations, which is trying to preserve the region’s costly dependence on gasoline and diesel fuels by delaying the transition to a clean transportation future.
All of these groups rely on scare tactics and disinformation campaigns to block climate action and slow investment in clean transportation. From a stubborn reliance on long-debunked, inflated cost projections (hint: anyone still citing the Tufts CSPA study, whose author acknowledged its inaccuracies, or its 38 cents/gallon price tag is resorting to willful misinformation for lack of better arguments) to a dogmatic refusal to acknowledge TCI-P’s public health, economic, and transportation benefits, these opponents rarely address the details of the actual program that the states are planning to implement.
Offering No Solutions
Perhaps most frustratingly, the opposition offers no solutions to the climate crisis, to our underfunded and outdated transportation infrastructure, or to the devastating public health impacts from tailpipe pollution. Rather than addressing avoidable deaths from local tailpipe pollution, creating better transit options, reducing traffic, and investing in transportation infrastructure, they ask residents to be content with the status quo, point fingers at other states, hope to be rescued by the federal government, and demand inaction from state policy makers. Unfortunately, too many state legislators have been willing to oblige while parroting the opposition’s misinformation.
What’s Next for TCI-P?
Clean air, new jobs, and better transportation options are still within our grasp. The governors of all three southern New England states are supporting the TCI program; now it is the legislatures’ responsibility to act, not only to authorize TCI-P participation, but to codify provisions to ensure the program prioritizes the needs of overburdened and underserved communities across the region.
In Connecticut, the legislature must pass TCI-P legislation through a special session this fall that enables participation in the program and establishes important equity and environmental justice provisions.
In Massachusetts, the legislature has already granted the Governor authority to implement TCI-P, and new legislation has been filed that would strengthen existing provisions to benefit overburdened and underserved communities.
Through the passage of these important bills, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island will be advancing meaningful action to address climate change and help every community thrive.
For More Information:
Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, (617) 742 0054 x105