Energy Policy

Few states remain in the failed Transportation Climate Initiative

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The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) began in 2010 when 11 states and the District of Columbia signed a Declaration of Intent to create a regional compact aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector. But after Connecticut recently announced it was pausing its participation in the program, only Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia remain.

The Declaration of Intent for the TCI was initially signed by the heads of transportation, environment, and energy agencies in 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, plus the District of Columbia. Its stated goal was to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize our transportation system’s reliance on high-carbon fuels, promote sustainable growth, address the challenges of vehicle-miles traveled and help build the clean energy economy.” 

Department heads from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia all signed the Declaration of Intent.

But over the past decade, many of the states that signed onto the declaration have since paused their participation in the program or refused to sign on. 

On June 8, Connecticut became the latest state to pause its participation in the program. Amid ongoing budget negotiations, Gov. Ned Lamont announced there was not enough legislative support for Connecticut to continue its participation in the TCI.

In December 2020, just four of the original signatories—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia—signed a pact to reduce carbon emissions 26% by 2032, a more aggressive goal than any of the plans initially proposed. Gov. Mills declined to enter Maine onto the TCI. Mills cited concerns about the effects the compact might have on gas and the impact this would have on low-income Mainers. At the same time, Verrmont also declined to join the TCI.

In December 2019, Gov. Sununu of New Hampshire announced New Hampshire would not be participating in the TCI. 

Critics of the TCI claim the pact’s cap and trade system, which charges fuel distributors for every pound of carbon burned by the fuels they sell, essentially amounts to an additional tax on fuel, above the gas tax rate already charged by states. 

Mills is not the only governor to decline to join the pact over concerns about taxes. Other governors, like Gov. Scott of Vermont, have expressed hesitancy over the impact higher fuel prices could have on those who live in rural areas and commute to work.

Many of the states not actively participating in the TCI are still involved in ongoing negotiations about what policies states in the pact should support. But concern over taxes and rising costs associated with the TCI may mean, even in future, many states decline to participate.

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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