Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia Are First to Launch Historic Regional Program To Cut Transportation Pollution and Invest in Communities
Proceeds from the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program will allow RI to invest almost $200 million between 2023 and 2032 in modernizing transportation, improving public health, addressing environmental inequities in low-income communities, and protecting residents from the impacts of climate change
Providence, RI (STL.News) Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today committing to a groundbreaking multijurisdictional program that will achieve substantial reductions in motor vehicle pollution – the region’s greatest source of greenhouse gases (GHG) – and reinvests nearly $300 million a year across these jurisdictions in cleaner transit, modern infrastructure, and healthier communities.
The bipartisan Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) will guarantee Rhode Island at least a 26 percent reduction in carbon emissions from transportation from 2022 to 2032 and is anticipated to generate around $20 million annually. Signatory jurisdictions will reinvest these funds in equitable and cleaner transportation options, serving as a catalyst for infrastructure, transit and green energy development through the next decade and beyond. TCI-P also will benefit public health by reducing avoidable deaths and respiratory and other illnesses caused by exposure to air pollution.
TCI-P was developed through a collaboration of 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic jurisdictions, known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), with extensive outreach and input from thousands of people, businesses, and organizations. Other TCI jurisdictions will release a joint statement committing to continued collaboration and individual actions to reduce air pollution, create healthier communities, and invest in cleaner, more equitable transportation systems, including working with the TCI-P Signatory Jurisdictions to help develop a model rule and other cap-and-invest program elements that can be implemented within each jurisdiction.
“Joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative is an investment in Rhode Islanders,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “This first-of-its-kind program will provide $20 million annually for public transit, safe streets for bikers and pedestrians, and other green projects. Most importantly, it will provide much needed relief for the urban communities who suffer lifelong health problems as a result of dirty air. I look forward to working with the Rhode Island General Assembly to launch this program and protect the health of Rhode Islanders.”
“Engaging in this way with my fellow governors and Mayor Bowser accomplishes goals we have set for Connecticut for years,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. “Participating in the TCI-P will help grow our economy through a fresh injection of capital to provide for jobs and new infrastructure. This collaboration will cut our greenhouse gas emissions, and it will make our urban centers healthier, after decades of being adversely impacted by the emissions being released by traffic every day. Connecticut has always taken pride in our leadership role when it comes to climate, and when we can combine that with a stronger economy, fast transit systems, and regional cooperation, that’s a win for all of us.”
“My vision is for the District to be the healthiest, greenest, most liveable city for all our residents,” said Mayor Bowser. “To realize that vision, we have ambitious goals – for mobility, equity, and climate – and this program is an opportunity to accelerate all three, together. That’s why I’m proud to join this collaboration, leveraging a multi-jurisdictional commitment to cutting pollution to deliver real health benefits and investment dollars for all eight Wards.”
The next step in Rhode Island will be for model legislation to be sent to the General Assembly to consider during the 2021 legislative session. Each TCI-P state will need to adopt state-level policies to get the program up and running.
In a region with nation-leading climate goals, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia are committing to bold action to ensure the achievement of emissions reduction targets while positioning the jurisdictions and region as leaders in the clean transportation economy. Together, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut account for 73 percent of the transportation emissions, 76 percent of the vehicles, and 75 to 80 percent of the gross domestic product in New England. The three states, along with the District of Columbia, are taking this action at a time when the impacts of climate change continue to be felt across the country and region.
The jurisdictions commit through this MOU to allot no less than 35 percent of the annual proceeds to assist communities overburdened by transportation pollution and associated negative health impacts and underserved by the current transportation system. Rhode Island will designate an equity advisory body with diverse representation and community involvement to advise on developing criteria to identify overburdened and underserved communities, provide recommendations for investments, and assist with developing metrics to evaluate the success of these investments.
The program comes at a time when the impacts of climate change continue to be felt across the state, the region, and beyond. Transportation is responsible for 38 percent of greenhouse emissions in Rhode Island. Exposure to air pollution exacerbates lung and heart ailments, causes asthma attacks, and increases the risk of a stroke and other serious health conditions. Prolonged exposure to air pollution may make it more difficult to recover from diseases like COVID-19, according to a recent Harvard School of Public Health report. In Rhode Island, 16.5 percent of adults and 14.3 percent of children will be diagnosed with asthma in their lifetime versus national rates of 14.5 percent for adults and 11.4 percent for children, according to 2018 statistics for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Starting this program now provides an immediate boost to the state’s socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, making available an anticipated $21.6 million in allowance auction proceeds to Rhode Island in just the first year alone to provide better transportation options that result in less pollution, improved health, and a growing economy. Of the $21.6 million in proceeds, TCI would result in over $7.5 million being invested in low-income communities. Over the course of the program from 2023 to 2032, TCI would result in a minimum of $70 million being invested in low-income communities.
“TCI gives us the opportunity to develop and implement a detailed roadmap to cut pollution, improve public health, and invest in significant transportation and community improvements so that Rhode Island can become a cleaner and easier place to navigate for all,” said Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. “Rhode Islanders care a great deal about cutting harmful air pollution, expanding cleaner public transit options, reducing traffic congestion, and investing in transportation infrastructure to ensure, among other things, that essential workers can get to work safely and on time. TCI will help us achieve these and other benefits.”
TCI-P will work by requiring gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers to purchase emission “allowances” for the pollution caused by the fuels they sell in participating states. The total number of allowances would decline each year, resulting in less transportation pollution. Each participating jurisdiction will independently decide how to invest program proceeds to achieve the goals of the MOU.
Example investments may include: improving existing public transit systems; developing new bus routes in suburban and rural communities; developing bus rapid transit; electrifying buses, rail, and state fleets; developing highway preservation to reduce congestion; expanding safe bike lanes, bike paths, walking trails, and sidewalks; expanding bike-share programs; improving high speed wireless internet in rural and low-income areas; creating rebates for electric and low-emission vehicles; developing charging infrastructure; developing interstate electric vehicle charging corridors; and creating incentives for continued telecommuting.
In developing TCI-P, the TCI jurisdictions engaged stakeholders across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region and received input from more than 10,000 people and organizations as part of an extensive policy development process. These comments and input demonstrate overwhelming and wide-ranging support for TCI-P, including many national, regional, and local businesses and employers, environmental, transportation, and equity organizations, and the public.
With the signing of the TCI-P MOU, there will be additional opportunities for the public and stakeholders to provide feedback during the development of the TCI-P Model Rule and, in some jurisdictions, legislative and regulatory processes.