TCI Announcement Demonstrates Benefits of Transition to Clean Transportation, Highlights Need for Strong Program
BOSTON — Today, 12 states and the District of Columbia announced the details of a new, regional program to cut tailpipe pollution while delivering much needed investment in clean, equitable, modern transportation options. Working together through the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), these jurisdictions have developed a multi-state cap-and-invest program to address rising transportation emissions and the need for greater investment in a clean transportation future.
Launching this program will be a major accomplishment at a substantial scale: the TCI region, were it a single country, would represent the world’s third largest economy.
“States are leading the way with subnational action on climate,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center’s President. “By working together, this region can achieve globally significant carbon reductions while delivering billions of dollars each year for grants and investments to help every community thrive. From rural towns to the region’s biggest cities, TCI can fund investments to make better transportation options more accessible, affordable, and reliable.”
Along with the policy details in the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the TCI jurisdictions released modeling results demonstrating that regional action to reduce transportation pollution will deliver economic, health, and environmental benefits. Under the most ambitious policy analyzed, the region would see the following impacts in 2032:
A 25% reduction in CO2 emissions from vehicles (from 2022 levels);
Nearly $7 billion in proceeds for investment in clean, equitable transportation solutions; and
$10 billion in health savings from reduced tailpipe pollution in 2032 alone.
The modeling makes it clear that launching a TCI program will be a tremendous step forward if the participating jurisdictions implement an ambitious emissions cap. As the modeling shows, each increasingly more ambitious policy scenario delivers greater health savings and more resources for clean, equitable transportation investment.
Given these findings, the TCI states should establish a cap that declines by at least 25% from 2022 to 2032, if not more. Of the policy scenarios analyzed, the 25% cap comes closest to ensuring the necessary cuts in transportation pollution to meet state economy-wide climate requirements. While the 25% cap would represent progress, the TCI jurisdictions have an opportunity to chart an even bolder path; a more ambitious emissions cap will ensure that participating states meet their climate requirements while delivering greater health savings and enabling more transformational investments. Those investments in public transit, electric vehicles, active mobility, and other clean transportation projects will provide greater access to the clean, affordable, reliable transportation options that this region needs.
The importance of strategic investment has been demonstrated through the region’s experience with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The investment of over $3 billion in RGGI auction proceeds has helped participating states become national leaders on energy efficiency while creating high quality, local jobs. Those RGGI-funded investments have contributed to the fact that electricity prices in the RGGI states have declined since the program launched, while prices have increased in the rest of the country.
Through TCI, states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic can build on RGGI’s success while improving the model. Investments funded by TCI must be dedicated to reducing pollution and delivering a more equitable transportation system, and complementary policies will be essential to the rapid and just transition to a clean transportation future.
“Investment in better transportation options while reducing tailpipe pollution is a winning combination,” said Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director. “Acadia Center applauds the TCI jurisdictions for developing this program, and we call on every participating Governor to ensure that the program is both robust and equitable; the program’s success will be determined by their ambition.”
 The TCI jurisdictions are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
The states participating in RGGI have all seen incredible public health and economic gains since the program took effect. A recent report from Abt Associates concluded the reductions in air pollution achieved under RGGI have generated an estimated $5.7 billion in public health benefits.
At the same time, Acadia Center estimates electricity prices in RGGI states fell by 6.4 percent while prices rose by a similar margin elsewhere. Overall, energy efficiency programs supported by revenue raised under RGGI in just its first six years were estimated to yield $1.56 billion in energy bill savings.
On top of this, the RGGI states’ economies outpaced the rest of the nation. By 2016, emissions had dropped by 33 percent, while the RGGI states’ economy grew by 29.7 percent.
But as Fast Company has written before, the emissions reductions laid out under the Clean Power Plan are already underway, and the directive from Virginia, says Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst at the clean-energy research nonprofit Acadia Center, “is the first domino in what will be a series of states moving to adopt clean energy policies.”
In issuing the directive to Virginia’s DEQ, McAuliffe instructed that his state’s proposal to limit energy-sector emissions should fall in line with those already in place across the country, and is looking specifically to California and a coalition of nine East Coast states united under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), both of which have successfully implemented cap-and-trade policies to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Stutt says that while cap-and-trade policy implementation has been slow to spread beyond California and the RGGI (pronounced “Reggie”) states, and now Virginia, “the conversation is getting louder.” Following Obama’s introduction of the Clean Power Plan two years ago, “the whole country began preparing to comply with the standards, and most states were looking at how a RGGI model–a cap-and-trade model–might work in their state,” Stutt says.
“States are looking to these programs; they don’t want to be missing out on all the benefits the RGGI states and California have been seeing for revenue to be reinvested in clean energy initiatives and infrastructure needs,” Stutt says.
While cap-and-trade has proven effective in the RGGI states and California, and it’s likely to be the model that Virginia pursues (Stutt met with legislators in the state as far back as two years ago, as they were gauging the possibility of Virginia becoming part of RGGI), NextGen Climate founder and philanthropist Tom Steyer–who has considered running for governor of California–tells Fast Company that “there is no one magic bullet” that will dictate how states drive clean energy policies going forward. “The unending increase in the efficiency and effectiveness of technology is driving down the cost of renewable energy sources like wind and solar dramatically,” Steyer says. Unlike coal, whose price continues to rise as its supply constricts, renewable generation can proliferate with no harm to society, and states on both sides of the political divide are responding to the favorable market conditions.
While currently, those states most aggressively pursuing cap-and-trade and other carbon-reduction policies are blue states, both Kiely and Stutt emphasize that support for clean energy policies extends across political divides. RGGI was proposed by a Republican, former New York governor George E. Pataki, and John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, vetoed an attempt by the state legislature in December to make the state’s renewable energy standards voluntary, saying to roll back the renewable energy policy would hurt Ohio’s economy (the legislature is continuing to fight the veto). And some of the strongest supporters of wind energy come from states like Iowa and Texas, where the availability of natural resources has driven the cost of renewables down. In Iowa, the cost is so dramatically lower that to do anything other than integrate wind into the energy landscape would put the state at an economic disadvantage–and powerful Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is strongly in support of increasing the amount of wind power the state produces.
RGGI states are currently re-evaluating their trading rules, and Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst at the Acadia Center, said the timing could be convenient for Virginia.
“As Virginia could develop this new regulation as the RGGI states are revising their existing rules, setting up all 10 states for concurrent adoption of the new rules in 2018,” he said.
Praise from greens, with caveats
Stutt said the move makes sense for Virginia because “in addition to the price signal favoring low-carbon generation, participating in this market could generate substantial revenue for reinvestment in the state.”
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Participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) would bring significant benefits to Virginia, according to analysis released today by Acadia Center. Acadia Center has been tracking RGGI since the program’s launch in 2009, and drew on this expertise to arrive at the following key findings:
RGGI provides a flexible, straightforward mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
Participating in RGGI would enable Virginia to meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements to reduce GHG emissions from power plants.
RGGI would raise $2.8 billion by 2030 for Virginia to reinvest in complimentary consumer and climate programs
“RGGI has been successful in the states that currently participate. It is helping to reduce carbon emissions, while offering a demonstrated record of advancing economic development, and saving consumers money on energy,” said Daniel L. Sosland, Acadia Center President.
“RGGI has received significant attention and growing support as a means of reducing climate pollution and helping to protect the state from sea level rise and other damaging effects of climate change,” said Dawone Robinson of Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “This analysis helps show why RGGI is the right solution for Virginia.”
Virginia needs a plan for cutting greenhouse gas pollution from major generators to meet the federal requirements of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. A recent study by the regional grid operator PJM showed that a multi-state program—like RGGI—was the most cost-effective way for Virginia and other PJM states to meet the regulations.
“The RGGI program is well-established and has a track record of results: driving down emissions and bringing in revenue and other economic benefits. The numbers clearly show how much Virginia and other states could gain by joining,” said Stutt.
The current RGGI states have used the majority of revenue raised through the program to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy programs, which have generated $3.40-$3.70 in economic growth for every $1 invested. Revenue can also be used to meet local needs such as adaptation planning or investment in diversifying Southwest Virginia’s economy and retraining its workforce.
Emily Avery-Miller, Director External Relations, Acadia Center, 617-742-0054 x100, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jordan Stutt, Policy Analyst, Acadia Center, 617-742-0054 x105, email@example.com
Dawone Robinson, Virginia Policy Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 804-767-0372, firstname.lastname@example.org
Acadia Center is a non-profit, research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center is at the forefront of efforts to build clean, low-carbon and consumer-friendly economies. Acadia Center provides accurate and reliable information, and offers a real-world and comprehensive approach to problem solving through innovation and collaboration.