Regional Clean Transportation Plan released; Sununu says NH won’t participate

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Editor’s Note: Hours after the draft memo was explained in a teleconference call Tuesday and published its story, Gov. Chris Sununu announced that New Hampshire will not be participating in the Transportation and Climate Initiative. “Under this scheme, New Hampshire drivers would be forced to pay a significant new gas tax with little environmental benefit to the state.” See Sununu’s full 3 p.m. press release at the end of this story.

Transportation Investment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by as much as 19 percent in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in the coming decade by reducing transportation emissions if 12 states and the District of Columbia agree on a plan.

On Tuesday, a draft transportation climate plan was released by the Transportation Climate Initiative or TCI, which for the past year has had states in the region studying ways to reduce greenhouse emissions through cleaner fuel and modes of transport.

Read the full Draft MOU

All interested parties are asked to provide their input by Friday, February 28, 2020.

The draft memo outlines plans for reducing carbon pollution in the transportation sector by charging motor vehicle fuel suppliers for the emissions resulting from gasoline and diesel fuel use. The revenue would be used to help participating states invest in public transit improvements, electric vehicles, clean school buses, park-and-rides, and bike infrastructure.

Preliminary modeling estimates that by 2032, the proposed program could yield monetized annual public health benefits of as much as $10 billion, including over 1,000 fewer premature deaths, and over 1,300 fewer asthma symptoms annually region-wide, among other safety and health benefits, the report states.

New Hampshire’s coastal communities are facing higher tides, existing infrastructures like culverts that are overwhelmed at times and extreme weather events that are damaging homes and properties.

Whether New Hampshire signs on to this plan is yet to be seen.

Jim Martin, spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, said TCI is a regional effort similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which New Hampshire is a part of.

New Hampshire has not joined TCI, however, Martin said. “We do participate in discussions,” he said.

Roger Stephenson, the Northeast Regional advocacy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said lawmakers will likely have to approve if New Hampshire is to join TCI.

“New Hampshire is looking over the shoulders of people who are putting it together and taking a pragmatic view because Like RGGI, New Hampshire’s participation is likely going to have to be approved by the legislature,” Stephenson said.

The TCI report notes that electric cars could make up 30 percent of the reductions, with 23 percent coming from low-emission trucks and buses while infrastructure could be built to increase pedestrian, sidewalk, and transit to help meet that goal.

Clean transportation investment could be good for not only the environment and public health, but the regional economy, according to the report.

A fuel tax, rather than a cap, does not necessarily drive down the emissions, said Secretary Kathleen Theoharides of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, who chaired the TCI study.

She spoke to reporters across the region by teleconference on Tuesday. She said transportation is responsible for 43 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the region.

Theoharides called this an “unparalleled opportunity to reduce transportation emissions” for a region with 72 million people, including New Hampshire’s 1.3 million, and 52 million registered vehicles from D.C. north to Maine.

Speakers on the call in addition to Theoharides included Chris Hoagland, an economist in the Maryland Department of Environment climate change division; Deputy Secretary R. Earl Lewis, Jr., Maryland Department of Transportation; and Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown Law School.

While a 19 percent reduction in carbon dioxide is the goal of the draft memorandum of understanding, it is possible that the reductions could be only 6 percent if the various policies or market forces reduce the cost of fuel, Hoagland said.

He said it could be a “win-win” however by growing jobs, improving the economy and the air quality.

The MOU now will enter a period of public engagement for input in January and February and then after revisions, it will be up to each jurisdiction to decide whether or not to sign on likely between next spring and fall, Theoharides said.

The hope is that the reductions could begin in the year 2023, but it could come earlier.

The Conservation Law Foundation applauded the announced move by the states to put this initiative forward.

“This state agreement moves us toward much-needed regional collaboration to confront the climate crisis,” said Amy Laura Cahn, director of CLF’s Healthy Communities and Environmental Justice program in Boston.

“Urgent and bold action is necessary to tackle the scourge of carbon emissions and jump start clean transportation options for New Englanders. We also need more immediate solutions that improve air quality for residents in pollution hotspots,” Cahn said.

Gov. Chris Sununu’s Press Release

New Hampshire Declines to Participate In the Transportation Climate Initiative

Concord, NH – Governor Chris Sununu announced that New Hampshire will not be participating in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). Under this scheme, New Hampshire drivers would be forced to pay a significant new gas tax with little environmental benefit to the state.

“I will not force Granite Staters to pay more for their gas just to subsidize other state’s crumbling infrastructure,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “New Hampshire is already taking substantial steps to curb our carbon emissions, and this initiative, if enacted, would institute a new gas tax by up to 17 cents per gallon while only achieving minimal results. This program is a financial boondoggle and the people of New Hampshire will never support it.”

Rural communities would be left at a severe disadvantage if New Hampshire participated in the TCI, as drivers will bear the brunt of the artificially higher gas prices.

“NHDES has been actively monitoring the TCI process for the past year in order to fully understand the potential long and short term impacts of this potential regional program on NH,” said DES Commissioner Bob Scott. “NHDES intends to continue to observe these efforts and represent the interests of NH.”

“There are clearly better ways to achieve the purported goals of this program,” said Office of Strategic Initiatives Director Jared Chicoine. “This proposal is a huge hit to the wallets of rural drivers. The data makes it clear that — even without the TCI proposal — the market is already projected to reach many of the same environmental benchmarks. Here in New Hampshire, we are already aggressively moving forward with smarter environmental initiatives like more EV charging stations, offshore wind, and low-income solar incentives to ensure New Hampshire’s long legacy of environmental stewardship continues to move forward.”

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Paula Tracy

Veteran reporter Paula Tracy writes for