by: Amy Sokolow | The Boston Herald [link]
Gov. Charlie Baker has pulled the plug on a regional climate initiative that would have capped tailpipe emissions and was projected to hike gas prices at a time of record inflation, admitting the multi state-deal is “no longer the best solution.”
He backs out of the Transportation and Climate Initiative just days after Connecticut did.
“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 press secretary Terry MacCormack said in a statement Thursday.
MacCormack said the federal infrastructure package and a statewide tax revenue surplus puts the state in a strong position to upgrade its infrastructure and public transit, while also investing in emissions reduction strategies.
TCI would have capped carbon emissions by forcing fuel companies that exceeded limits to buy additional permits and invest those proceeds into green transportation and climate-resilient infrastructure. It aimed to reduce vehicle emissions by 26% by 2032.
One of the few remaining states, Connecticut, pulled out Tuesday, with Gov. Ned Lamont citing high gas prices — which would creep up even higher by up to 9 cents per gallon by 2023 if TCI were enacted.
Initially, 12 states plus the District of Columbia were in talks to enter the agreement, but just Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and D.C. eventually signed a memorandum of understanding by December 2020.
“Today is a major win for the taxpayers of Massachusetts,” said GOP gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl. “Joining TCI was a bad idea from the start, and it would cost our state too much money.”
Diehl could be up against Baker next year if the governor decides to seek re-election to a third term.
TCI suffered another blow earlier this year when Rhode Island lawmakers recessed for the summer without entering the agreement.
Pro-TCI backers slammed the move, saying the “climate needs … leadership,” said Janet Domenitz, executive director of advocacy group MASSPIRG, who added she’s “disappointed” with Baker’s move.
However, the most outspoken opponents of the bill, including conservative watchdog Mass Fiscal Alliance, backed Baker.
“TCI is a regressive gas tax scheme that would have hurt (the) middle class and the working poor the most. It’s such wonderful news to see that Massachusetts families will not be forced to endure the economic hardship TCI would have imposed upon them,” said its spokesperson, Paul Diego Craney.
Craney called MassFiscal “the loudest voice against TCI” and credited an alliance including MassGOP Chair Jim Lyons, that began a 2022 ballot initiative process to withdraw the state from TCI with its defeat.
Josh Ostroff, interim director of Transportation for Massachusetts, said the climate won’t wait and he called on Baker and lawmakers to “double down on transportation investments that are clean, equitable, healthy, and safe.”
State Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, told State House News the decision is a “major setback” even if it does not come as a surprise.