Transportation Climate Initiative bill sparks fight over gas tax increase


(WTNH) — According to AAA Northeast, the price of a gallon of gasoline has increased by 25-cents in the last month alone because of the weather and change over from winter to spring fuel grades. Those prices will likely go up if a new climate bill is passed by the state legislature.

Currently, Connecticut drivers pay three taxes on a gallon of gasoline: the federal excise tax,
the state excise tax, the petroleum gross earnings tax.

Those who are against the Transportation Climate Initiative bill say if the bill passes, drivers can add a TCI emissions tax.

RELATED: WATCH LIVE: Virtual public hearing surrounding climate change initiative; Gov. Lamont wants you to join

Elijah Hillman, a coffee barista from Hartford said Monday during the public hearing, “Inner cities don’t have clean air in general.”

Hillman tells News 8 he would be willing to pay more at the pump for cleaner air.

The Transportation Climate Initiative, or TCI, is a cap and trade policy Governor Ned Lamont wants Connecticut to be a part of. At a virtual hearing, Gov. Lamont’s team testified the TCI program would require polluters to pay for the pollution they’re causing.

Commissioner Katie Dykes from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection testified, “These emissions are harming our communities. These harms are disproportionately falling on our communities of color and lower-income who live alongside the major transportation corridors in our state.”

But Sterling Osborne, the owner of Mercury Fuel says, “Gasoline is not a luxury. It’s a necessity of life.”

Gas station owners and those in the motor transport industry say drivers already pay a lot. Per gallon, regular gas at this Shell station in Hartford is $2.69 and diesel $2.85. Opponents say TCI is just another tax.

Chris Herb from the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association says although the Climate Initiative intentions are good, he adds, “It shouldn’t happen on the shoulders of Connecticut motorists especially working class and poor.”

How much of an increase at the pump is anyone’s guess. Joe Scully from the Motor Transport Association believes if TCI is passed, “The cost of gasoline is going to soar.”

Scully says the average price could jump 17-cents per gallon.

Energy Commissioner Katie Dykes pegs it at 5-cents beginning in 2023 and increasing to 10-cents over a decade. With a cost containment trigger.

“Cost containment reserve is something that acts as a guard rail to keep prices from exceeding 9-cents in the early years of the program,” Commissioner Dykes.

TCI works by fuel suppliers which will pay for a permit at auction to sell fuel. The proceeds will go to state investments in clean transportation solutions.

Willie Huff of Hartford says he will pay more for green initiatives, “If it benefits the community in other ways… it’s already three dollars.”

If the law is passed, the governor’s team expects to generate $1-billion over the next decade. Opponents say not only will drivers see an increase at the pump for this policy, but another bill the administration is pushing. The truck mileage tax, they say will also make gas prices skyrocket.

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