Only Washington D.C. still signed up, but Vermont Climate Council ponders joining
By Guy Page
If Vermont officially joins the Transportation and Climate Initiative, it may have only the local government of Washington, D.C. for company. Every other would-be northeastern partner – including every New England state – has failed to commit.
The spokesperson for Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts recently announced the Bay State would back out of the Transportation & Climate Initiative, a (once) multi-state effort to impose de facto carbon tax at the gas pump to pay for regional low-carbon transportation improvements.
The new infusion of federal dollars and skyrocketing gas prices are driving New England states away from the controversial measure, even as Vermont’s Climate Council seems poised to recommend the Green Mountain State go forward with the TCI. A list of Climate Council recommendations is due the first week of December. Gov. Phil Scott has said he opposes it but won’t be able to stop either the Climate Council or the currently veto-proof Legislature from joining.
“The Baker-Polito Administration always maintained the Commonwealth would only move forward with TCI if multiple states committed, and, as that does not exist, the transportation climate initiative is no longer the best solution for the Commonwealth’s transportation and environmental needs,” Baker Administration Press Secretary Terry MacCormack said. “At the same time, the new federal infrastructure funding package, American Rescue Plan investments, as well as tax revenue surpluses generated by Massachusetts’ strong economic recovery make the Commonwealth better positioned to upgrade its roads, bridges and public transportation systems, while also making investments to reduce transportation emissions, deliver equitable transportation solutions and benefi,ts and meet the state’s ambitious climate goals.”
Citing skyrocketing gasoline prices, liberal Democrat Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut on Tuesday announced the Nutmeg State would have nothing to do with TCI. “Look, I couldn’t get that through when gas prices were at an historic low, so I think the legislature has been pretty clear that it’s going to be a pretty tough rock to push when gas prices are so high, so no,’’ Lamont reportedly told the Hartford Courant, acknowledging that the cost of motor fuel was likely to rise under the initiative.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has long opposed the TCI. It’s unlikely the legislature of the Granite State will gravitate towards paying extra at the pump to fund a new bureaucracy that would presumably fund more electric car chargers and public transportation, among other low-carbon improvements. Maine likewise never showed much interest.
Rhode Island adjourned its legislature in June without passing TCI legislation. If the Ocean State continues to opt out, that leaves Washington, D.C. as the only member to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to go forward with the TCI – the brainchild of an environmental program associated with Georgetown University, which is based in D.C.
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, is using the high energy prices to 1) accuse oil and gas companies of unfair practices and 2) promote electric cars and the $15 billion ticketed for electric transportation infrastructure in his $1.85 trillion Build Back Better legislation. He made the latter pitch to the press at a Michigan auto plant, while sitting behind the wheel of a $108,000 electric Hummer.