OpEd: Southern New England states must honor commitment to cutting transportation pollution
By Sen. Alana DiMario and Rep. Terri Cortvriend
In the decade-plus since the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) was first developed under the Carcieri administration, there has been growing, bipartisan consensus that we must end our dependence on fossil fuels for the health of the people in our communities and our planet. No one disputes that reality.
And in that decade of work and planning and a worsening climate crisis, no one has come up with a better solution to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. TCI would cut greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicles in the region by an estimated 26% and generate a total of more than $3 billion dollars over 10 years for the participating jurisdictions to invest in equitable, less-polluting transportation options and to help energize economic recovery.
It isn't a political landscape that dictates what we must do here; it is the physical reality of the world in which we are living, and an absolute necessity to take action to reduce those emissions.
This week Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker cast doubt on the agreement their states signed with Rhode Island and Washington D.C. to take action on TCI, with Lamont saying high gasoline prices would probably mean his state legislature wouldn’t support it, and Baker following, saying he wouldn’t stay without other states. We are so disappointed.
That’s unacceptable and short-sighted. We should all be outraged by the idea of staying dependent on and beholden to giant fossil fuel corporations that take billions in taxpayer subsidies while raising gas prices and raking in record profits, all while polluting the earth and making our communities sicker. These are the costs we all bear every day, and it’s long past time the fossil fuel companies take some responsibility for the damage they have done. A model like TCI is still the best plan we have to significantly reduce emissions and help fund Rhode Island’s off ramp from fossil fuel dependence.
It should be noted that Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut together account for almost three-quarters of transportation emissions across New England. We need to do our part to address it.
Here in Rhode Island, our legislative leaders have — fortunately — expressed receptiveness for TCI. The Ocean State has both the ability and the responsibility to move forward on this concept regardless of whether our neighbors uphold their commitments.
In the upcoming legislative session, we will be working on a plan to center equity while reducing transportation emissions and creating a funding stream for modernizing transit. While a regional commitment would be more effective — and we look forward to reaching out to neighboring states to broker such an agreement — nothing could be more ineffective than longer inaction.
As elected officials it is our duty to keep the health and safety of our communities front and center in the decisions that we make. Leading the region in implementing the concepts of TCI does exactly that. For too many decades we have deferred acting on climate change, and there is no more time to waste. If we aren't here to fight for the bold and necessary changes to address the most pressing issues facing us and to reduce the burden on future generations, then why are we here?
Sen. Alana DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) and Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) are the sponsors of the TEAM Community Act (2021-S 0872/2021-H 6310), which creates the statutory framework to implement TCI.