Gov. Lamont pulls plug on Transportation Climate Initiative ahead of election-year, environmentalists disappointed

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — After years of pushing, Governor Ned Lamont announced Wednesday he will not pursue the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). But now, a new twist in that argument.

This decision has put politics and pollution at a crossroads. Just hours after Gov. Lamont announced his TCI was dead, environmentalists pounced.

RELATED: Bike and Pedestrian Safety advocates rally at State Capitol in support of Transportation and Climate Initiative

Attorney Charles Rothenberger from Save The Sound said the group is still trying to peel back what the governor’s intent was. “Incredibly disappointed! It does appear as though he is abandoning Connecticut’s leadership role in addressing climate change.”

TCI is a regional cap and trade to raise money for reducing greenhouse gases. Lamont says prices at the pump drove the decision, not politics.

“The consumers are getting squeezed; right now they want to break,” said Lamont.

Two months ago the governor and his environmental team touted TCI along the coast in Milford.

Wednesday, however, his Department of Energy and Environment Protection (DEEP) Commissioner pushed for continued legislative support saying the “crisis is here.”

DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said, “We just had tornadoes touch down in Connecticut in November. I don’t think anyone has any memory of that happening before.”

So is TCI dead?

The governor is looking to the legislature for help. “If somebody wants to take the lead and get this to my desk, I’ll sign it,” he said.

Republicans who rallied calling TCI a $100-million tax on the middle-class say this latest twist is pure politics.

State Representative Vin Candelora, the Republican minority leader, said there is no appetite for a TCI bill.

“We are starting to see the old Governor Lamont,” Candelora said. “He proposed a property tax relief when he was running for election and that never hit anybody’s desk. Now he’s talking about ‘TCI was necessary to reduce pollution,’ and now all of a sudden he’s taking that off the table because we have more revenue. What does revenue have to do with pollution reduction?”

The governor said gas tax revenues will leverage federal infrastructure dollars to combat climate change. And there’s a new highway user fee on trucks that will generate $90-million a year when it kicks in next July.

But Republicans say ‘pump the brakes.’

Candelora explained, “To think that we are going to impose a tax that’s only going to lead to more inflation for Connecticut residents is wrong.”

The governor countered, saying, “Everyone loves to spend money and nobody ever gives me any ideas of how to pay for it.”

Meantime, Save the Sound says politics should not dictate clean air.

Rothenberger says his group is “willing to give him [Gov. Lamont] the benefit of the doubt at this point. As we sort of are in the immediate aftermath of that statement.”

The governor isn’t the only one up for reelection next year, many lawmakers say they do not want to pass a policy that would create more pain at the pumps for voters.

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