Special Topics in Environmental Management, Transportation

States Move on Developing Low-Carbon Transportation Policies

Nine of the 12 states plus the District of Columbia comprising the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) announced that over the next year they will collaborate on forming a regional low-carbon transportation policy. According to the TCI, the intent of the policy is to cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels and invest proceeds from the program into low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure. In its policy statement, the TCI said that once the policy is completed, each jurisdiction will decide whether to adopt and implement it.
Truck on the road
“The participants intend this program to be implemented on a regional basis after a critical mass of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have completed the legal processes to implement the agreed upon pricing mechanism,” the policy states.

Formed in 2010, the TCI is a regional collaboration that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy, and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. The TCI participating states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

Maine, New Hampshire, and New York were not listed as signatories to the new policy as of the December 18, 2018, announcement.

Emissions from transportation account for the largest portion (generally about 40 percent) of the region’s carbon pollution, the policy notes.

Listening Sessions

“Over the past year, dozens of TCI state officials facilitated regional listening sessions with 500 stakeholders to discuss low-carbon transportation goals, needs, and policy solutions,” says the TCI in its policy statement. “A diverse group of stakeholders in the region have expressed strong interest in the potential for establishing a market-based policy to reduce carbon pollution from the transportation sector.”

Cap-and-Invest Program

“Informed” by stakeholder input, the TCI participants commit to designing a “regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal that would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels through a cap-and-invest program or other pricing mechanism, and allow each TCI jurisdiction to invest proceeds from the program into low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure.”

The participants agree that the policy should be oriented toward both climate goals and “opportunities for jobs and economic growth along with new markets for low-carbon technologies, including through partnerships between government and private enterprise.”

Included in the statement are a list of steps that will be taken during the regional policy design process. In general, the intent of the process will be to design a policy that achieves consistency across jurisdictional boundaries. Decisions that will promote consistency include:

  • Determining the level at which to cap emissions;
  • Developing monitoring and reporting guidelines to ensure that transportation-related emissions decline over time;
  • Identifying the regulated entities and determining which fuels to include;
  • Developing mechanisms for cost containment and compliance flexibility;
  • Identifying shared priorities for investment of proceeds;
  • Establishing clear processes and timelines for implementation; and
  • Assessing ways to foster broader transportation equity across communities.

Missing National Strategy

“In the absence of an effective national strategy on climate change, states must innovate and lead to protect the health, safety, and livelihoods of our people, communities, and businesses,” said Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. “Rhode Island will continue to work aggressively to reduce GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, and the TCI initiative presents a major, market-based opportunity to develop cleaner transportation systems.”