HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut is not on track to meet the reduction of emissions targets, put into law. That is the finding of a Greenhouse Gas report. Now, the 3-year-old report is also stirring up an old argument. Should lawmakers pass a Transportation Climate Initiative bill that opponents say amounts to a gas tax?
Kathy Onofrio of Shelton says living in a state you love has a price. “If transitioning to electric means paying more for gas, then I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Governor Ned Lamont and his environmental team stood along the coast in Milford Tuesday to push the 2018 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report.
“We’ve got to start moving our transportation system and having all-electric cars and all-electric trucks and what a difference that can make,” said Gov. Lamont.
Touting 3-year-old data, officials say overall economic-wide carbon emissions were down but they also missed the state’s statutory goal for 2020 by nearly 3%.
The biggest culprits of dirty emissions: vehicle exhaust and emissions from building heating and cooling systems which environmental experts say release dangerous particulate matter.
Dr. Rebecca French, the director of the Office of Climate Planning at the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) says, “Those things are what causes asthma, aggravates and impacts the heart.”
According to the report, the transportation sector will miss the statutory 2030 target. The building sector will miss its target. But the electricity sector will hit its target.
Commissioner Katie Dykes of DEEP says not enough has been invested into transitioning to a green transportation fleet. “We have 6,000 school buses in the state running on diesel, polluting the developing young lungs of our kids.”
Funding is an issue. The state’s $3-million Electric Car Rebate Program isn’t enough. Seventeen thousand electric vehicles are on the roads in Connecticut. Commissioner Dykes says to hit the goal the state needs 500,000 drivers in the seat of an electric vehicle.
Enter TCI – the Transportation Climate Initiative. A regional cap and trade to raise money for reducing greenhouse gases.
Gov. Lamont says federal dollars help but the state has to kick in at least 20-percent to leverage the 80-percent match from Washington D.C. “Every little bit I raise here in Connecticut – I can leverage four or fivefold with federal support.”
But Republican leader State Senator Kevin Kelly says while he agrees on a cleaner environment talk to big polluters first. “In the state of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio because the wind blows west to east to join in and start to clean up their air.”
Senator Kelly says TCI would increase the price at the pump, and proceeds will not be used to fix roads and bridges. He says it’s simple: “This is a $100-million tax that the governor is looking to put on the middle class.”
He invites people to sign the petition at StoptheGasTaxCT.com and learn more about upcoming rallies to speak out against the proposed tax.
The league of conservation voters says that assuming polluters pass on the cost of TCI compliance to the consumer it could cost around $37 a year.
According to DEEP officials, the TCI will cut Connecticut’s transportation emissions by 26% in 10 years, improve our air quality, and save lives.
TCI investments could fund a wide range of local job-creating projects, such as:
- Replace dirty diesel school and transit busses with clean, electric vehicles
- Add bicycle lanes, sidewalk improvements, and bus stop shelters
- Expand and improve public transit
- Increase air quality monitoring
- Expand Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure
- Expand access to broadband for telecommuting & telehealth
- Build safer roads, intersections, and signals
- Expand greenways and trails
It’s still unclear whether TCI will be part of any upcoming legislation.
Connecticut Energy Marketers Association’s (CEMA) President Chris Herb tells News 8, “DEEP needs to go back the drawing board. So far lawmakers have rejected TCI and consumers overwhelmingly oppose it. TCI is a solution that nobody in Connecticut appears to want, yet DEEP keeps pushing for it.”
TCI supporters claim that it will reduce emissions by 26% by 2032, but according to the organization that created it, the Georgetown Climate Center, which actually projects 25.7% of the 26% emission reductions will be achieved through existing and future vehicle fuel economy standards – not TCI.
CEMA adds – even groups like the Sierra Club chose not to support TCI because it did not go far enough environmentally.