Implications for a Downward Trend in Emissions

Numerous news stories have documented how the pandemic and resulting economic crisis have reduced air pollution around the world , bringing emissions down globally by 17%. As Americans have been forced to shelter in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, the air around us has become noticeably cleaner and climate pollution has fallen. While no one would seek to lower emissions in this way, a recent article in the Boston Globe explored the extent of the pandemic-induced pollution reduction while highlighting opportunities to rebuild a cleaner, more equitable economy.

“[E]missions from cars, trucks, and airplanes have declined in metropolitan Boston by about 30 percent, while overall carbon emissions have fallen by an estimated 15 percent,” writes David Abel, the author of the article. That level of pollution reduction is unprecedented but offers a challenge to better envision and implement an economic recovery pathway that delivers a just transition to a sustainable future.

That’s why Acadia Center is pushing harder than ever for policies that will make that transition possible. One of the efforts discussed in the article is the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI). Through TCI, 11 states from Maine to Virginia are working to develop a regional program to reduce vehicle pollution and spur investment in a cleaner, modern, more equitable transportation future. In the Boston Globe, Acadia Center’s Jordan Stutt described it as “a public health program and an economic stimulus program wrapped in one.” The program would generate billions of dollars each year for investment in transportation infrastructure, helping the local workforce rebound while delivering better transportation options and cleaner air to communities across the region.

Acadia Center has long championed the point – supported by data and research — that well-designed efforts to reduce climate pollution provide many benefits for all citizens: improved public health, greater economic opportunity, safer, more efficient buildings, lower energy bills, and more accessible, less-polluting ways to get around. Those benefits are more important now than ever before, particularly in the communities that have been hit hardest by COVID-19. Those communities must be front of mind and at the head of the table as we look to build a resilient, sustainable economy. Acadia Center is committed to doing the research, providing the data and making the case for the large-scale reforms and investment in a cleaner future that will improve the quality of life, health and economies of this region.

Shifting to An Online Work World

In an unprecedented time of change and uncertainty, the suspension of many functions of government and imposition of social distancing has resulted in a surprising amount of creative and effective interactions among stakeholders, government agencies, and coalitions. Moving to online, virtual meetings has presented opportunities to interact with new audiences and deepen relationships with stakeholders.

Acadia Center’s experience with online collaboration across its offices has prepared the organization well for this transition to virtual public hearings and stakeholder processes. The crisis has reinforced our commitment to advance effective, equitable reform solutions across the region and has prompted our staff to generate new ideas for innovative virtual engagement opportunities where physical barriers may have previously been limiting.

In Connecticut, just as the historic health and safety directives were put in place in March to cancel all in person events, Acadia Center and allies shifted a long-planned forum on the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) to an online webinar format. The result was excellent: the forum was attended by over 80 diverse participants, including business, community leaders, legislators, and administration officials. The event focused on how the TCI program structure could work, how to extend its benefits to all people in the state, and emphasized economic and employment benefits, exceeding its goal to move the discussion forward on implementing a sound transportation and climate policy for the state.

Official government work also shifted to online formats. In Rhode Island, Acadia Center RI Director Hank Webster participated in an “Energy 101” panel for members of the recessed General Assembly and spoke to Leadership Rhode Island’s first ever virtual “Government Day” about the legislative process and climate/energy issues. Hank also commented during the first-ever video conference meeting of the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Committee. An important state stakeholder process designed make recommendations to Governor Raimondo on ways to transform building heating in the state to cleaner resources also moved online, allowing stakeholders including Acadia Center the opportunity to provide verbal and written comments ahead of a final report. And in Maine, the Governor’s Climate Council process – an ambitious effort to engage numerous stakeholders to recommend an effective climate plan for the state –shifted rapidly online as the state phased in social distancing requirements, allowing the tight schedule for the process to remain in place. Acadia Center responded by working remotely with coalition partners on policy development, outreach, and communications strategies related to buildings, energy, forestry, and transportation.

In Massachusetts, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Katie Theoharides hosted an online briefing and coalition communications have continued without significant interruption. Acadia Center steered advocacy within coalitions such as the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions (ACES), the Global Warming Solutions Project (GWSP), and the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Power Coalition. Acadia Center continued to lead input in shaping the Baker Administration’s approaches to offshore wind and state carbon targets. Acadia Center and a broad coalition have been focused on ways to strengthen the Global Warming Solutions Act, leading to passage of a strong Senate bill and a commitment from the Baker Administration in January of 2020 to a net-zero carbon target in 2050. Acadia Center will closely track and comment on the forecasts and roadmap development that continues to progress as stakeholder engagement uses remote formats.

The New England Power Pool (NEPOOL), the governance body engaged in overseeing the region’s electricity grid, maintained its regular schedule using virtual tools. As a member of NEPOOL, Acadia Center is engaged in the upcoming Transition to the Future Grid analysis being undertaken to address the barriers faced by clean energy resources in the current electricity grid design. Acadia Center’s Deborah Donovan coordinated with other clean energy advocates to ensure NEPOOL’s rejection of a flawed proposal to modify energy markets in ways that would harm consumers and further bias clean energy.

Acadia Center also raised its voice to address directly ways the crisis was affecting key programs. For example, all residential energy efficiency and weatherization work was ordered to be stopped early in March in Connecticut, causing a wide range of impacts including on the vendor community performing the efficiency installations. No resources were being offered to assist the contractors or workers but as chair of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board (CEEB), Acadia Center Connecticut Director Amy McLean was able to raise questions about ways to relieve the burden of the contractors and keep them from going under during the pandemic. As a result of action at the CEEB, the state issued a formal ruling on April 24, 2020 outlining compensation eligibility for energy efficiency vendors.

Transportation & Climate Initiative would be a win for Vermont

TCI is a cap-and-invest program similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that Vermont participates in to reduce carbon pollution from electricity generation. In 2005, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas signed on together with six other Northeast states. Vermont is still a part of it today, and it has been successful in multiple ways. Analysis from Acadia Center shows that since 2008:

  • GDP of the RGGI states has grown by 47%, outpacing growth in the rest of the country by 31%;
  • Electricity prices in RGGI states have fallen by 5.7%, while prices have increased in the rest of the country by 8.6%;
  • RGGI states have generated $3.4 billion in allowance auction proceeds, the majority of which have been invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including incentives for advanced wood heat and solar panels;
  • CO2 emissions from RGGI power plants have fallen by 47%, outpacing the rest of the country by 90%.

Read the full article from VTDigger here.

Amid coronavirus pandemic, air pollution declines in Boston and elsewhere

“We were expecting action on TCI soon, but at this point, given that governors’ attention is elsewhere, I think we’re unlikely to have an announcement this spring,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director for the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group in Boston.

Stutt remained optimistic that states will ultimately look to TCI with a “renewed sense of urgency,” as the program could serve as a source of much-needed revenue and jobs to a region with surging unemployment claims and depleted financial reserves.

“It’s a public health program and an economic stimulus program wrapped in one,” he said. “The billions of dollars generated could be invested in infrastructure programs and high quality jobs.”

Read the full article from the Boston Globe here.

Public Comments Show “Overwhelming Support” for Program to Cut Pollution and Modernize Transportation in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States

Speaking on behalf of OTF, Jordan Stutt, carbon program director, Acadia Center said: “For elected officials who have been waiting on the close of the comment period to gauge public sentiment, the outcome could not be clearer:  Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Americans want to fix our dirty and broken transportation system.  No amount of oil industry-funded propaganda will change the fact that there is overwhelming public support for the important goals of the Transportation & Climate Initiative. It’s a big hit.”

Read the full press release from Our Transportation Future here.

A New Approach to Transportation in Connecticut Could Cut Pollution, Boost the Economy and Deliver 23,000 Jobs

HARTFORD, Conn. – Today, Acadia Center released an analysis illustrating the benefits of a new approach for Connecticut to reduce transportation pollution while improving the system to better meet its residents’ needs. The analysis shows that, if designed well, a regional cap-and-invest policy developed through the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) could enable the state to make over $2.7 billion in crucial transportation investments by 2030, which would generate over 23,000 long-term jobs and $7 billion in economic activity.

“Connecticut can be a leader in developing a bold, equitable program to invest in needed transportation modernization while capping pollution in the state,” said Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director and Senior Policy Advocate at Acadia Center. “By capping transportation emissions and auctioning pollution allowances, all residents in the state will benefit through investments in transportation infrastructure and improved mobility options. The state’s overburdened and underserved communities are disproportionately bearing the brunt of non-accessible transportation options and harmful impacts of local air pollution. A modernized clean transportation system would be transformative for Connecticut’s people and economy.”

Acadia Center’s analysis demonstrates that new transportation investments funded through a regional cap-and-invest program would deliver substantial economic, environmental, and mobility benefits in Connecticut. As Connecticut works with other states to develop this program, advocates, community groups and other stakeholders are joining forces to determine what that program – and Connecticut’s transportation future – should look like.

On Tuesday evening, Acadia Center, the Center for Latino Progress, the CT Roundtable for Climate and Jobs, Sierra Club and Transport Hartford Academy gathered, joined by 55 stakeholders including transportation and environmental advocates, environmental justice activists, health professionals, business leaders, Commissioner Dykes from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Tom Maziarz from the Department of Transportation, for an important Connecticut-focused meeting to discuss efforts to deliver a more equitable, modern low-carbon transportation future.

“It is far past time for the State of Connecticut to act. As we act to quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants, we have the opportunity to invest in our communities, quality of life, and local employment,” said Gannon Long, Assistant Coordinator for Transport Hartford Academy at the Center for Latino Progress. “A transportation focused cap-and-trade system, implemented in 2021, could be a useful tool in achieving the state’s critically important emission reduction targets.”

To estimate the economic opportunity for a market-based transportation climate policy, Acadia Center’s report examined a sample investment portfolio including bus fleet electrification and transit system improvements, commuter rail updates and expansion, electric vehicle rebates and charging infrastructure, and walking and biking infrastructure. To determine how funds from this type of program are ultimately invested, participating states will need to develop a process that includes input from the most impacted parties, in particular low-income and disadvantaged communities.

“Cap-and-invest programs do not operate in a vacuum – they work best when they are designed to complement other policies and accelerate the transition to less-polluting options,” said Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director at Acadia Center. “This analysis illustrates how cap-and-invest proceeds could bolster Connecticut’s existing efforts to deliver modern, accessible, low-carbon transportation options while spurring local job creation.”

Read the full report here: https://acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com/document/investing-in-connecticuts-transportation-future/ 


Media Contacts:

Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director
amcleansalls@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x204

Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director
jstutt@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x105


OurTransportationFuture.org: New Broad-Based Advocacy Effort Boosts Regional Initiative to Reduce Vehicle Pollution

42 Groups Join Together to Help Lawmakers, City Officials and Business Leaders Develop 21st-Century Clean Transportation Network Offering More Options and Serving the Needs of All in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

WASHINGTON, D.C. AND BOSTON – Forty-two local, regional and national groups today launched a new coalition, Our Transportation Future, established to help Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states develop a regional clean transportation system that protects public health, curbs climate-changing pollution, expands economies and improves the flow of commerce. The coalition will support states’ efforts to address a transportation system that is unworkable, outmoded and is the leading source of carbon pollution driving climate change.

Our Transportation Future (OTF) is committed to finding solutions and modernizing transportation across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The coalition aims to help transform the region’s transportation system into a model for the nation that gets people in rural, suburban and urban communities where they need to go safely, more efficiently and with less exposure to harmful pollution.

OTF experts are taking an active role to educate state policy makers and the media.  The new OTF website will provide important news, information and announcements about the ongoing efforts to modernize transportation across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.  A monthly round-up of media coverage and commentary about regional clean transportation is available at OTF with a free subscription.

OTF supports the policy objectives of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a collaboration of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia working to reduce transportation pollution and invest in a modern, clean transportation future for the region. In December 2018, nine TCI states and D.C. committed to working over the course of 2019 to design and create a market-based program to limit transportation pollution while improving public transit, expanding electric vehicle use, establishing more bikeways and pedestrian walkways and fostering economic growth.

Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director, Acadia Center, said: “This broad group of organizations has united around a shared reality: it’s time to invest in our transportation future. Our air is polluted, our public transit is outdated, and traffic is choking our cities. Through TCI and other clean transportation policies, we can invest in solutions for cleaner air, healthier people, and a thriving economy.”

ABOUT OTF

Our Transportation Future is a coalition of local, regional and national organizations committed to modernizing transportation across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. OTF is focused on improving our transportation system — the ways we move people and goods in the region – to spur economic growth, make us healthier and safer, clean up the environment, and improve our quality of life.

An improved transportation system means more clean cars and trucks, more reliable mass transit, more walkable and bikeable communities, and investments that connect everyone, including those in underserved and rural areas.

OTF members include:  A Better City, Acadia Center, Ceres, Clean Air Council, Climate Law and Policy Project, ClimateXChange, ConnPIRG, Connecticut Public Interest for the Environment, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), Energize Maryland, Environment America, Environment Connecticut, Environment Massachusetts, Environment Maryland, Environment Maine, Environment New Hampshire, Environment New Jersey, Environment New York, Environment Rhode Island, Environment Virginia, Environmental Advocates of New York, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Green Energy Consumers Alliance, Green For All, Health Care Without Harm, Maryland PIRG, Mass Climate Action Network, MassPIRG, NJPIRG, Northeast Clean Energy Council, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), PennEnvironment, Sierra Club, Transportation for America, Transportation for Massachusetts, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Union of Concerned Scientists, USPIRG, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Vermont Natural Resources Council, and 350 MASS for A Better Future.


Media Contact:

Krysia Wazny McClain, Communications Director
617-742-0054 x107, kwazny@acadiacenter.org