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12 Eastern States Aim to Curb Tailpipe Emissions

Politics

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A group of 12 northeastern states and Washington, DC have banded together to create a plan to curb tailpipe emissions from cars, trucks, SUVs and buses, taking on an environmental scourge that is the largest form of greenhouse gas emissions, according to The New York Times.


The ambitious cap-and-trade plan covers nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population and 52 million registered vehicles from Maine to Virginia. The plan, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), would gradually lower the cap on permissible tailpipe emissions from gasoline and diesel-powered engines. It would also invest proceeds from the plan in "cleaner, more resilient, and more equitable low-carbon transportation system," according to the proposal.

While the proposal has been more than a year in the making, the release of the draft plan provided the first clear indication of what the TCI will mean for motorists. The cap-and-trade program could raise the price of gasoline as much as 17 cents per gallon, as The Boston Globe reported.

If the states involved adopt the policy, the program could start as early as 2022. The way it works is fuel companies will have to buy allowances from the states for every ton of carbon dioxide their products will create. The states will take that money and invest in programs that will slash carbon emissions like public transportation and electric vehicle charging stations, as The New York Times reported.

The "fundamental purpose" of TCI, said Katie Theoharides, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs, as The Boston Globe reported, "is to address the climate crisis that is already having increasingly large and damaging effects on every one of our communities."

The most ambitious plan version of the plan could see tailpipe emissions in 2032 that are 25 percent lower than 2022. Backers of the plan say the health benefits from cleaner air and the economic boost from infrastructure investment more than make up for the added costs at the pump.

"At the same time, we also know that the things we do to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from transportation also deliver enormous benefits to public health and the economy," said Theoharides, as The New York Times reported.

The fuel producers and distributors will likely pass the cost on to consumers by raising prices at the pump. While this is a draft proposal, it still has to go through an extensive public comment period and, if states decide to implement the plan, the final version is likely to look different from the initial proposal. The added cost at the pump is likely to be a sticking point as each state decides whether or not to remain as part of the coalition, according to The New York Times.

The draft proposal has already received praise and harsh criticism from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker supports the TCI and said he plans to start using the expected $500 million in annual proceeds on transportation projects in two years, according to the The Boston Globe.

However, Baker's counterpart in neighboring New Hampshire, Governor Chris Sununu, said, "This program is a financial boondoggle," as The Boston Globe reported. He shirked away from the TCI, saying that New Hampshire residents would end up financing crumbling infrastructure in other states.

Supporters of the plan see regional action as a bulwark against the constant rollbacks of environmental policies and weakening of regulations from the Trump administration. The TCI, specifically, challenges the Trump administration's rollback of strict fuel-efficiency standards.

"When we're going backward at the federal level, for states to step up and take action on climate, take steps to modernize our transportation system, it's just an unprecedented opportunity," said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at the Acadia Center, a research and public interest group in New England that is pushing for cleaner energy, as The New York Times reported. "If designed well, this can be the most significant sub-national climate policy ever."

The TCI involves Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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